Golden Gate Fields in Albany, California, was the contest track for the Week 3 Road to Kentucky contest. The featured El Camino Real Derby marked the return of Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens, who made his first Golden Gate Fields appearance since winning the 1998 San Francisco Mile aboard Hawksley Hill. After retiring in 2005 due to chronic knee-pain and burnout, Stevens returned last year rejuvenated to ride Oxbow, Mucho Macho Man, Beholder, and She’s a Tiger in a brilliant comeback campaign. Stevens was named on El Camino favorite Enterprising, for trainer Tom Proctor.
However, the more things change the more they remain the same. While Gary Stevens is the national star, Russell Baze is the local hero. Northern California racing has been dominated by jockey Russell Baze for decades, and Saturday was no different. In Russell The Muscle’s seven mounts on the card, the “other” Hall-of-famer secured 4 wins, 1 second and 1 third, generating 729 contest points on his own. Considering the maximum contest points available for the entire card was 1,671, it would be foolish to argue otherwise that the “Baze” angle wasn’t the best way to go on this Saturday. Playing Baze, and then correctly selecting the winner in the two races that Baze wasn’t riding would have generated a score of 1,209, a likely overall weekly winner.
Of the 27 in-the-money horses on Saturday, only 2 went postward at odds of 10-1 or higher and they both hit the board in the same race. The 8-1 winner in Race 2 was worth 314 contest points which was tops on the day. Three favorites and four second choices were victorious, rendering the bomb-tossing strategy useless on this day. The winning score will likely fall in the 1,100-1,200 point range and scores figure to be pretty bunched.
Baze got the better of Stevens in the featured El Camino Real Derby, winning with 2-1 second choice Tamarando, while Stevens only managed third aboard 6/5 favorite Enterprising. Neither of these runners was on my radar, as I had selected Craftsman (12-1) who was no factor. Once again I was outside the box with my selections, and managed only 1 second and 1 third place finish on the day. But I will keep the faith!
Next week the contest is at Gulfstream Park, featuring the Fountain of Youth Stakes. There is also an additional bonus race at Fair Grounds, the Risen Star. Hope to see you here!