After losing the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) an hour earlier with his 3-10 favorite Tapizar , trainer Steve Asmussen landed a nice consolation prize when Silver Medallion drove to an upset victory in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) Feb. 12 at Golden Gate Fields in California (VIDEO).
Russell Baze brought the 6-1 outsider home impressively 1 1/4 lengths in front for Asmussen. According to the track publicity office, the two-time Eclipse Award-winnig conditioner was starting his first horse ever at Golden Gate in the El Camino Real, the Bay Area track's main event for 3-year-olds.
Michael J. Ryan owns Silver Medallion, a 3-year-old son of Badge of Silver --Another Vegetarian, by Stalwart. Brereton C. Jones bred the colt in Kentucky.
Jakesam, at 12-1, finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of California Derby winner Positive Response. Comma to the Top, last year's CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner who was making his first start of the year, finished fourth, 4 1/4 lengths behind Silver Medallion as the 1-2 choice. Six contested the 1 1/8-mile test timed in 1:50.45 over the Tapeta synthetic track.
Silver Medallion checked early off of Comma to the Top as Jakesam, on the far outside, hustled to the front for Frank Alvarado and opened up a 2 1/2-length lead. Comma to the Top, after bearing out early, settled into second while Silver Medallion raced in fourth, just off Formula Gold.
Jakesam carved fractions of :23.84, :48.09, and 1:12.35 and still led by two lenghts at the three-eighths marker. He was finally overtaken past the eighth pole by Silver Medallion, who appeared to brush with Comma to the Top in upper stretch while rallying four paths wide. Silver Medallion won in a drive under urging from Baze.
Baze, racing's all-time leading rider by victories, said Asmussen (who was not present) told him earlier that Silver Medallion "can be a twit," though that was not the case this time.
"He was calm and very relaxed today," said Baze, who won last year's El Camino Real with Connemara for trainer Todd Pletcher. "I was a little concerned he might be sick because he was so calm going to the gate. He's a nice little horse to ride. I got to Comma to the Top and he really didn't answer the challenge."
Comma to the Top, whose five-race winning streak came to an end for Southern California trainer Peter Miller, "just didn't finish," jockey Corey Nakatani said.
"We wanted to get him some experience with a target to run at," Nakatani said. "On the far turn I wouldn't have changed places with anyone. But then everything changed. I think the layoff and the surface might have had something to do with it."
Silver Medallion, a $150,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase in 2009, was coming off a victory in the Eddie Logan Stakes on the turf at Santa Anita Dec. 31, his first stakes win. He banked $120,000 for the El Camino, notching his third win in six starts. The bay colt boosted his earnings to $212,904.
By winning the El Camino, Silver Medallion is eligible to try for the second leg of track owner MI Developments' "Preakness 5.5" bonus program in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). If he can win that race and the Preakness (gr. I), he would take a $5.5 million bonus for his connections.
Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Silver Medallion paid $15, $4.80, and $12 as the third choice. Jakesam, second in the California Derby last time for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, returned $7.40 and $13 in a game effort. The exacta was $76.40. Positive Response, whose three-race win streak ended for trainer William E. Morey, paid $7.40 to show after making a mild rally from the back of the pack.