Pinch-Hitting Tamarando Takes El Camino Real

Pinch-Hitting Tamarando Takes El Camino Real
Photo: William Vassar/ Vassar Photography
Tamarando gets by Dance With Fate to win the El Camino Real Derby.

Back on a synthetic surface he seems to prefer, Tamarando closed from last on the far turn to register a half-length triumph over Dance With Fate in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields Feb. 15 (VIDEO).

The grade I winner returned Russell Baze to the winner's circle after a two-year absence in Northern California's major prep race on the Triple Crown trail. Baze, North America's all-time leading jockey with an amazing 12,167 victories, won the El Camino Real Derby for a record ninth time. It was also fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer's record sixth win in the race, and five of those have come in tandem with Baze.

Tamarando, who wasn't even a sure starter until stablemate Exit Stage Left came up injured a week before the race, rebounded from a distant second as the favorite in the California Cup Derby Jan. 25. He recorded his first graded stakes win since taking last summer's Del Mar Futurity (gr. I). The California-bred son of Bertrando has won four of seven starts on synthetic tracks with one second and one third.

The winner was timed in 1:51.23 for 1 1/8 miles over Golden Gate's Tapeta racing surface as the 2-1 second choice in a field of eight 3-year-olds. Dance With Fate was second by 2 1/4 lengths over 6-5 favorite Enterprising.

I'll Wrap It Up set the pace for the first six furlongs, holding a one-length advantage over Enterprising after a half mile, with Dance With Fate a close third on the far outside. Tamarando was unhurried while last but no more than five lengths or so from the leaders through quarter mile fractions of :24.40, :49.73, and 1:13.98.

Baze asked Tamarando for more speed and the dark bay colt responded while rounding the final bend five paths wide. Enterprising, ridden by Gary Stevens, and Dance With Fate, under the guidance of Aaron Gryder, dueled through the lane after taking over in upper stretch, and Dance With Fate put his head in front at the eighth pole as Enterprising weakened. But the new leader could not withstand the superb charge from Tamarando, who was put to a full drive by Baze and hit the front in the closing strides.

"He was laying closer than normal for him and doing it within himself," Baze noted of Tamarando's confirmed closing style. "I had to ask him to start moving at the three-eighths pole because I knew they had a lot of horse in front of us. He got me right up there to them and then had enough to push by (Dance With Fate) at the finish line. 

"My horse was moving pretty good, but (Dance With Fate) wasn't coming back. He ran all the way to the wire. It took a good horse to run him down and this is a good horse. He's got a nice, long move. There's going to be a lot of good things coming from this colt. He's got a lot of talent."

Hollendorfer trains Tamarando for Larry and Marianne Williams, who bred the colt from their graded stakes-placed mare Tamarack Bay, by Dehere.

Tamarando defeated Dance With Fate by the same half-length margin in the Del Mar Futurity, which he won in an upset in his first start after breaking his maiden over state-breds Aug. 18. Tamarando went on to finish third in the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) and the Golden State Juvenile, both at Santa Anita Park, before getting back on the winning track in the Real Quiet Stakes on Hollywood's Cushion Track. He followed that effort with a third, seven lengths behind stablemate Shared Belief, in the rich CashCall Futurity (gr. I).

Hollendorfer said he was a bit surprised that Tamarando was able to pull it off.

"About the quarter pole I saw Russell moving and thought we had a chance but it still takes an awful lot to run them down," he said "This horse runs well every time we race him. Even before Exit Stage Left got hurt we talked about running him in this race. We might have run all three if (Exit Stage Left) didn't get hurt."

Hollendorfer said he is looking at the $550,000 Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 22 at Turfway Park for Tamarando's next start.

"And he might train here because it's synthetic," he added. "I think I'd continue to use Russell (who replaced Rafael Bejarano in the El Camino Real). I always say a horse has to take you to the Kentucky Derby, and if he takes us we'll show up. He seems like he has the style to run 1 1/4 miles. He's very sound, trains very forwardly and seems happy all the time. We take good care of him and keep him thinking positive."

With his latest win, Tamarando has banked $625,120 from a 4-2-3 mark in 10 lifetime outings.

Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Tamarando paid $6.60, $4. and $2.20. Dance With Fate, still in search of his first stakes win for trainer Peter Eurton, returned $4.60 and $2.60 as the 7-2 third choice. The exacta was worth $27.40. Glen Hill Farm homebred Enterprising, favored off his close runner-up showing to Exit Stage Left in the California Derby Jan. 18, paid $2.10.

Tamarando earned 10 points toward a possible start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Puppy Manners, a second entrant from the Hollendorfer stable, finished fourth, followed by Infosec, Icy Ride, Craftsman, and I'll Wrap It Up.

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