Favored Positive Response seized the lead on the final turn and ran away with the $100,000 California Derby for his third consecutive victory at Golden Gate Fields Jan. 15 (VIDEO).
Winner of the Gold Rush Dec. 11, all of Positive Response's recent wins have come in route races over the Tapeta racing surface for trainer William E. Morey. The California Derby, at 1 1/16 miles, is a major steppingstone to next month's El Camino Real Derby (gr. III).
“He’s on the improve, that’s for sure," Morey said. "This horse is not a run-off horse. A lot of people thought he got an easy lead last time (in the Gold Rush) against lesser competition. I’m so proud he proved he can come from off the pace."
The $200,000 El Camino Real Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, is Feb. 12.
"He made a major-league move at the three-eighths pole. He made a move into a hot pace and still finished. I don’t think the mile and an eighth will be a problem. At the end, he’s always finishing.”
Julien Couton, who won the first stakes race of his career in the Gold Rush, was aboard Positive Response once again for the winning ownership tandem of Morey, Saul Gevertz, Roger Newman, and Ray Pagano, who reportedly paid about $75,000 for the Florida-bred son of Pomeroy last fall.
Positive Response rated nicely behind the early leaders while four wide as Northern Indy took the 12-horse field into the clubhouse turn with Jakesam in close attendance. Jakesam, ridden by Frank Alvarado, took the lead on the backstretch but Positive Response moved into position to challenge early on the final turn. Quarter-mile splits for the first six furlongs were swift (:22.98, :46.81, 1:11.60) with Positive Response putting a head in front at that point.
Jakesam tried to cling to Positive Response, who took control at the quarter-pole and edged away in upper stretch, but Positive Response drew off in the final furlong to win by 2 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:44.56.
Couton said Positive Response was sharp but moving nice and easy on the backstretch. He said the trip went perfectly.
"When we took the lead he kind of waited for something," the jockey said. "He needs a little time to get going. When he switches leads, he’s gone. That was a perfect race for him. Now we know he can come from behind.
Bluegrass Reward finished third, one length farther back, with Juan Hernandez aboard.
Second choice Dancing At Dark, a Southern California shipper ridden by Barrington Harvey in place of the injured Russell Baze, faded after six furlongs and was eased while finishing last.
Baze missed his rides on the day when he was dropped by his mount prior to the first race. He went to the hospital for X-rays on his neck, which were negative. He was thought to have suffered a minor sprain and the 52-year-old rider could return to action Jan. 16, according to the track publicity office.
Positive Response began his career with trainer Kelly Callaghan at Woodbine, breaking his maiden in his second start at the $50,000 claiming level. Transferred to Northern California in October, the gelding ran fourth in his initial try against starter allowance company at six furlongs. Stretched out to a mile in his next start, he woke up with a front-running 3 1/2-length victory.
Morey was encouraged to try the one-mile Gold Rush next and Positive Response came back with another gate-to-wire triumph, this time by six lengths.
Though the Cal Derby is not graded and does not count toward a possible start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Positive Response banked $60,000 for the victory and improved his career mark to four wins in six starts with earnings of $139,681.
Rosebrook Farms and Moreau Bloodstock International bred the winning bay. He is out of Lisa's Approval, by Farma Way.
The only stakes winner in the big field, Positive Response carried top weight of 122 pounds as the 7-5 favorite and paid $4.80, $3.40, and $3. Jakesam, a son of Smoke Glacken trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, returned $4.80 and $3.80 and completed at $21.40 exacta. Bluegrass Reward, off at 30-1 for trainer Steve Miyadi, was $10.20 to show.
Completing the order: Grand Maneuver, Mr. Candy Bar, Mazarron, Northern Indy, Zayda, Cut Fastball, The Great Caper, Rule He Must, and Dancing At Dark.