Stakes winners Chocolate Candy, Gallant Son, and undefeated Merus Miami top a group of seven 3-year-old colts entered for the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields Jan. 17.
The 1 1/16-mile event will be contested over Golden Gate's Tapeta Footings racing surface. Northern California's first major test for sophomores hoping to get on the Triple Crown trail, the Cal Derby is the main local prep race for the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III), which will be run Feb. 14 at Golden Gate.
Gallant Son, six-length winner of the Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs last September, makes his first start since finishing seventh in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita, where he was just 3 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Midshipman.
The Kentucky-bred son son of Malabar Gold has trained well at Golden Gate, but trainer Frank Lucarelli cautioned that the 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby is the more important objective.
"I'm not saying we're not trying and he can't win," Lucarelli said, "but the important thing is to get a good race into him."
Gallant Son will have regular rider Leslie Mawing will break from post position 6. Owned by Chris and Dianna Randall of Bellevue, Wash., Gallant Son was the Northwest's top 2-year-old of 2008, winning four races -- including three stakes -- at Emerald Downs. Purchased for $9,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the dark bay colt has earned $113,038 in his six races.
Chocolate Candy comes into the race after a third-place finish in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park Dec. 20, when he was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by favored Pioneerof the Nile. The Candy Ride colt won the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood at the California Derby distance prior to that.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for the Craig Family Trust, the homebred raced six times in his juvenile season while compiling a record of 2-1-1 and earnings of $202,500. Russell Baze will ride Chocolate Candy for the first time.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Merus Miami has won both of his starts, stepping from the maiden ranks into stakes company to win the one-mile Gold Rush at Golden Gate Dec. 20. The Friends Lake colt rallied from last to get the job done for jockey Alex Bisono, who retains the mount for trainer O.J. Jauregui.
The California Derby also attracted Adriatic Moon, who ran second to Merus Miami in the Gold Rush; Revoluta, also trained by part-owner Hollendorfer, third in the six-furlong Golden Bear Jan. 1; and Red Baron's Feisty Suances, second most recently in the California Breeders' Championship at Santa Anita.
Also shipping north is Axel Foley, making his second U.S. start for trainer Doug O'Neill after beginning his career in Great Britain. The Kentucky-bred son of Officer finished sixth after a poor start in the CashCall Futurity.
$100,000 California Derby (Race 8, 4:15 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Adriatic Moon (CA), Frank Alvarado
2. Revoluta (KY), Roberto Gonzalez
3. Feisty Suances (CA), Chad Schvaneveldt
4. Merus Miami (KY), Alex Bisono
5. Chocolate Candy (KY), Russell Baze
6. Gallant Son (KY), Leslie Mawing
7. Axel Foley (KY), Alonso Quinonez
Each carries 121 pounds.