Ann Arbor Eddie wins the 2017 California Cup Derby

Ann Arbor Eddie wins the 2017 California Cup Derby

Benoit Photo

O'Neill Ships Ann Arbor Eddie for El Camino Real Derby

Square Eddie gelding has won two straight California-bred stakes.

Trainer Doug O'Neill and Reddam Racing will look to sweep the two winter derbies at Golden Gate Fields and repeat in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) Feb. 18.

Four weeks after So Conflated took the California Derby at Golden Gate for Reddam and O'Neill, Ann Arbor Eddie will take over for the connections to run in the only Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) points race in Northern California.

The Square Eddie  gelding will follow in the footsteps of 2016 El Camino Real Derby winner Frank Conversation, a Quality Road  colt who didn't make it to the Kentucky Derby, but has found a home recently on grass. Ann Arbor Eddie seems to be improving with each start and has won back-to-back stakes restricted to California-breds, the Dec. 18 King Glorious and the Jan. 28 California Cup Derby.

Both those victories were on dirt, however, and Golden Gate's main track is the lone synthetic racing surface remaining in California. His two stakes wins were also at a mile and 1 1/16 miles, respectively, and the El Camino Real will stretch him out again to 1 1/8 miles.

"We've got some nice 3-year-olds and Ann Arbor Eddie is one of them," O'Neill said. "He's been extremely honest, but now we'll add some extra distance and try synthetic. It's a big (purse) and that makes it really intriguing, but it's also an easy ship from Southern California. It also helps that Square Eddies seem to be able to run on everything."

O'Neill didn't get too far ahead as to book a trip to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May for Ann Arbor Eddie, but did say a closer goal could include the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) March 25 at Meydan, the same route Frank Conversation took.

"He just got invited to the UAE Derby in Dubai, and it's an honor to be a part of that, so we're looking at that as far as a goal, if things keep going well," O'Neill said.

The El Camino Real left a significant footprint on the Triple Crown for some time, but its influence has waned in recent years. Although it still offers 10 points to the winner in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings, the last El Camino Real winner to make the Kentucky Derby gate was Daddy Nose Best  in 2012 and before that it was Chocolate Candy in 2009.

Since the race started in 1982 at Bay Meadows, no El Camino Real winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, but 14 have made the gate, with Cavonier (1996) and Casual Lies (1992) as the best finishers (both second).

While Kentucky Derby glory has been elusive, El Camino Real winners have had success in other Triple Crown legs. Tank's Prospect (1985), Snow Chief (1986), and Tabasco Cat (1994) all won the Preakness Stakes (G1), and Tabasco Cat also took the Belmont Stakes (G1).

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has won the most editions of the El Camino Real, with six victories, and has the morning line favorite for 2017 in Sheer Flattery, who is owned by Hollendorfer with Thomas Barrow and Richard Robertson. At 7-5 on the morning line, the Flatter  colt broke his maiden at fourth asking in December and finished third last time out Feb. 4 in the Robert B. Lewis (G3), his stakes debut.

Colonel Samsen is the only entrant with a stakes victory over the Golden Gate main track. The Colonel John gelding won the Dec. 3 Gold Rush Stakes and finished third in the California Derby, his most recent start.

Entries: El Camino Real Derby (G3)

Golden Gate Fields, Saturday, February 18, 2017, Race 7

  • Grade III
  • 1 1/8m
  • All Weather Track
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo
  • 3:48 PM (local)
11Zakaroff (KY)Kyle Frey122Steven Specht20/1
22More Power to Him (CA)Alejandro Gomez122Faith Taylor6/1
33Ann Arbor Eddie (CA)Mario Gutierrez122Doug F. O'Neill2/1
44Tribal Storm (CA)Abel Cedillo122Ed Moger, Jr.8/1
55Sheer Flattery (KY)Frank T. Alvarado122Jerry Hollendorfer7/5
66Colonel Samsen (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRicardo Gonzalez122Eoin G. Harty10/1
77Kona Dreams (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateIsrael Ocampo122George Papaprodromou8/1