Updated on 09/16/2011 8:08AM

Came Home aces Derby test

Came Home (right), Chris McCarron up, beats back Easy Grades in Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Came Home's tenacity served him at the most opportune time Saturday at Santa Anita, when he bravely fought off a stern challenge from Easy Grades and re-rallied to capture the $750,000 , the West's final major prep for the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

Came Home, the even-money favorite, was under severe pressure from jockey Chris McCarron to stave off Easy Grades, who made a menacing move on the final turn. But Came Home, who has now won six times in seven starts, would not be denied. He fought back and was pulling away from Easy Grades at the wire, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. He paid $4.20 to win.

Easy Grades held second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Lusty Latin, a 47-1 shot who passed exhausted horses to finish third. Mayakovsky was fourth, and was followed, in order, by U S S Tinosa, Jack's Silver, Proud Citizen, and Danthebluegrassman.

Although Came Home is clearly the best of the West, his performance did not erase doubts about his desire to run another furlong at Churchill Downs. He needed 1:50.02 to complete 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track, and the final furlong took 13.32 seconds.

"He's got everything you need to win the Kentucky Derby," McCarron said. "He has talent, class, and determination."

The race was quite eventful. Mayakovsky, the expected front-runner, stumbled badly at the start. He rushed up to the lead, but his chances were clearly hindered. Danthebluegrassman was rank behind horses early, then drifted out around the first turn, carrying Easy Grades wide.

Came Home settled into a perfect spot, behind Mayakovsky and just to the inside of the rank outsider Proud Citizen. Easy Grades was forced to travel wide the entire way, yet moved so sharply on the far turn that he passed Came Home and took a narrow advantage between the quarter pole and the furlong pole.

Paco Gonzalez trains Came Home for owners Bill Farish, John Goodman, Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan. Gonzalez, McCarron, McCaffery, and Toffan also won the San Bernardino Handicap earlier in the day with Bosque Redondo.

Gonzalez said Came Home was "not 100 percent ready," alluding to his having missed some training time three weeks ago after he became cast in his stall and had a slight fever. "The way he won the race today, he's got to be a very good horse," Gonzalez said.

Came Home's connections said he would go on to the Kentucky Derby. Ted H. West, who trains Easy Grades, said his horse would go to the Derby, too.

Bosque Redondo holds on

Earlier on the card, Bosque Redondo won his first graded stakes in the $150,000 San Bernardino Handicap, fighting off the late rally of runner-up Mysterious Cat.

Ridden by Chris McCarron, Bosque Redondo ($4.40) led throughout the 1 1/8 miles, winning by a head in 1:49.11.

Bosque Redondo fought with Freedom Crest for the first quarter-mile, even though McCarron's right boot came out of the stirrup.

"I didn't fix it because I thought it would distract him," McCarron said. "I waited about a sixteenth of a mile."

Freedom Crest was head and head with Bosque Redondo at the end of the backstretch, but faded in the final furlong to finish third. Mysterious Cat, fifth early, rallied along the rail, but could not catch the winner.

Bosque Redondo gave owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan and trainer Paco Gonzalez their fourth victory in the Grade 2 San Bernardino Handicap. They won the race from 1994-96 with Del Mar Dennis.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen