Merv Griffin's improving 3-year-old colt Skipaslew can gain legitimacy as a Kentucky Derby candidate Saturday when he faces nine rivals in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields.Run at 1 1/16 miles, the El Camino Real Derby is Northern California's premiere Kentucky Derby prep. The race has produced a Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year (Charismatic, 1999), two Kentucky Derby runners-up (Cavonnier, 1996 and Casual Lies, 1992), five Preakness Stakes winners (Charismatic, 1999, Tabasco Cat, 1994, Snow Chief, 1986, Tank's Prospect, 1985 and Gate Dancer, 1984), and a Belmont Stakes winner (Tabasco Cat, 1994).Ten Most Wanted, who finished third in last year's El Camino Real Derby, ran second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and went on to win the Travers at Saratoga (gr. I) and the Super Derby (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs.Skipaslew, a chestnut son of 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away, is seeking his third straight stakes victory at Golden Gate Fields. A grandson of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Skipaslew won the Gold Rush Stakes on Dec. 13 and the Golden Gate Derby (gr. III) on Jan. 10.Skipaslew is trained by Doug O' Neill, who claimed the horse out of his second career start for $50,000 on behalf of Griffin. In six starts for O'Neill and Griffin, Skipaslew has earned $163,100 while recording four wins."Skipaslew is doing dynamite," said O'Neill. "He's breezed four times since the Golden Gate Derby and he's doing as good as he possibly could be. I think he's grown a lot mentally."O'Neill said Griffin, the producer of the most popular game show of all time, "Jeopardy," is fired up about having a Kentucky Derby prospect."He's excited," said O'Neill. "He hopes to be hobnobbing with bigwigs the first Saturday in May."
French jockey Eric Saint-Martin rode Skipaslew to his victories in the Gold Rush and Golden Gate Derby and he'll be back aboard the colt Saturday. Skipaslew, carrying top weight of 120 pounds, will break from post seven.
Seattle Borders hails from the barn of Bobby Frankel, a five-time winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding trainer. Seattle Borders has won two straight races, the most recent victory coming in the Baldwin Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the about 6 1/2-furlong downhill turf course at Santa Anita.The top local hope is O. K. Mikie, an exciting stretch-runner who won the Golden State Mile after running second in the Golden Gate Derby and third in the Gold Rush Stakes. Jerry McArthur trains O. K. Mikie, who has four wins in seven starts$200,000 El Camino Real Derby, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight
1. Tacky, Macario Rodriguez, 115
2. Capitano, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 115
3. Totally Platinum, Joe Steiner, 115
4. Kilgowan, Chance Rollins, 115
5. Wildwood Flower, Kevin Radke, 112
6. O. K. Mikie, Adalberto Lopez, 115
7. Skipaslew, Eric Saint-Martin, 120
8. Trevanian, Dennis Carr, 115
9. Lipan, Russell Baze, 115
10. Seattle Borders, Kent Desormeaux, 117