Hollendorfer Duo Tops El Camino Real Derby

Hollendorfer Duo Tops El Camino Real Derby
Photo: Vassar Photography
Russian Greek won the California Derby by one length on Jan. 14 at Golden Gate Fields.

Since moving his tack to Northern California last year, Aaron Gryder has settled in nicely at Golden Gate Fields. On Feb. 18, the 41-year-old journeyman rider will be aboard favored Russian Greek in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

The much-traveled Gryder, previously competing in Southern California after a long stint in New York, has been giving perennial leading jockey Russell Baze quite a tussle for riding honors. Gryder won the Bay Area track's summer title and currently trails the Hall of Famer Baze 50-45 in the winter meet standings. He has managed to land a plum riding assignment on the big closer Russian Greek. Baze will be aboard a second starter from the Hollendorfer barn, the front-running filly Lady of Fifty.

This year's 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby has attracted 10 3-year-olds with some intriguing shippers, including Lucky Chappy from the Graham Motion stable, the Steve Asmussen-trained Daddy Nose Best, and Handsome Mike, from the Doug O'Neill barn. The race is contested on the Tapeta main track and is scheduled for a 4:45 p.m. PST start.

Gryder was astride Russian Greek for the first time in the California Derby Jan. 14, rallying the fast-closing son of Giant's Causeway   from last in a field of seven to a one-length triumph as the favorite.

"He's a very nice horse with a very relaxed way of going," said Gryder. "He beat a decent field that day. There are some better horses in this field. But I'm very excited that it's a full field. I had heard earlier in the week that there weren't going to be that many horses entered and I was concerned. A bigger field means there will be more pace. You want to be sure there's a decent pace in front of him.

"I didn't know anything about him last time and sometimes it's better that way," he added. "The one thing I know now is that Russian Greek loves the winner's circle."

Gryder's biggest win came with Well Armed in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in 2009.

As for his emerging rivalry with Baze, Gryder said, "People have been telling me I'll be in a great position in Northern California when Russell retires in a couple of years. But I don't agree. I love to compete and I love beating the best. So I love beating Russell Baze and he loves to beat me."

A 35-year-old Russian Greek, Mikhail Yanakov, happens to own Russian Greek. His Olympia Star Inc. paid $100,000 for the dark bay colt as a weanling during the Keeneland November sale in 2009. Russian Greek, out of the Grindstone mare Sand Dollar, won the Gold Rush Stakes prior to taking the 1 1/16-mile Cal Derby Jan. 14. He is 3-for-4 in his career with earnings of $121,700.

Russian Greek, at 5-2 on the morning line, drew post 4.

Hollendorfer, who has won the El Camino Real Derby a record five times, also entered Lady of Fifty. The swift daughter of After Market is pegged at 5-1 in her first try against males. Lady of Fifty has won her past three starts, most recently capturing the California Oaks by 3 1/2 lengths as the favorite with Baze aboard her for the first time. The gray/roan filly has won four of five races overall and completed a sweep of Golden Gate's series for 3-year-old fillies with her convincing Oaks win.

Baze holds the El Camino Real Derby record with eight wins, including six in the past seven renewals. Lady of Fifty, owned by Hollendorfer and George Todaro, must overcome the far outside post as she attempts to become the first female to win the race. She gets a five-pound weight allowance and will carry 116.

Team Valor International's Irish-bred Lucky Chappy will be making his first start on a synthetic track after six previous efforts on turf. Motion, who won last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Animal Kingdom  , sends the High Chaparral colt to California for the first time. Lucky Chappy is coming off a second-place showing behind stablemate Howe Great in the Kitten's Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park Jan. 21.

Alan Garcia makes is first appearance at Golden Gate aboard Lucky Chappy, who drew post 6 as the 7-2 second choice. Lucky Chappy was fourth in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT).

Julien Leparoux will also be making his first trip to Golden Gate, riding 9-2 Daddy Nose Best for Asmussen, who won the El Camino Real Derby last year with Silver Medallion. Daddy Nose Best, who drew the rail for owners Cathy and Bob Zollars, has done most of his running on turf and will be making his first synthetic surface start. The son of Scat Daddy   is making his first start of the year after finishing fifth as the 9-10 favorite in the Eddie Logan Stakes on grass at Santa Anita Dec. 31.

Paul Reddam's Handsome Mike (6-1) finished fourth with a wide trip in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita Jan. 7. In his first start for O'Neill, the Scat Daddy colt set the pace in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park before weakening to seventh in the final furlong. Corey Nakatani ventures north to ride Handsome Mike, who adds blinkers.

Cahill Chrome (10-1) and Senor Rain (12-1) ran second and third, respectively in the Cal Derby. Unveiled Heat (20-1), Rockinarz Recruit (201-), and All Squared Away (20-1) complete the field.

$200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Daddy Nose Best (KY), J R Leparoux, 121, S M Asmussen
2. Senor Rain (IN), K Krigger, 121, P Miller
3. Cahill Chrome (CA), J J Hernandez, 121, R W Hansen
4. Russian Greek (KY), A T Gryder, 121, J Hollendorfer
5. Unveiled Heat (CA), F T Alvarado, 121, S Specht
6. Lucky Chappy (IRE), A Garcia, 121, H G Motion
7. Handsome Mike (KY), C S Nakatani, 121, D F O'Neill
8. Rockinarz Recruit (CA), A Cedillo, 121, L C Mason
9. All Squared Away (KY), K John, 121, P Miller
10. Lady of Fifty (KY), R A Baze, 116, J Hollendorfer
Blinkers On: Handsome Mike
 

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