02/20/2010 12:00AM

Connemara captures El Camino for Pletcher


ALBANY, Calif. - Connemara ($4.60) completed a Triple Crown prep trifecta for trainer Todd Pletcher as he rallied from last to win the at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Pletcher had earlier seen Eskendereya win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and Discreetly Mine win the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

Connemara avenged his first career loss in last month's California Derby. He got away slowly again and was bumped around early before Russell Baze took him back to last while California Derby winner Ranger Heartley took the lead in the 1 1/8-mile race.

Connemara settled in at the rear of the nine-horse field while Ranger Heartley ran a sensible 49.56-second opening half-mile.

By the half-mile pole, Baze had Connemara, a son of Giant's Causeway, moving up. He raced four wide on the turn but was in the clear with momentum as the field began to bunch up.

Baze remained wide as the field turned for home, and Posse Power took the lead with four runners within a half-length of each other.

But Connemara was going the best and quickly took over inside the eighth pole, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of longshot Haimish Hy, who finished strongly, passing five runners in the final eighth-mile as he came home second, a length in front of Posse Power. The winning time was 1:51.26.

Baze, who has won five of the past six El Camino Real Derbies and seven overall, thought he was sitting on the winner when the post draw was announced with Connemara in the No. 8 post.

"When I saw the draw, I knew he'd be tough," Baze said. "There was no way he was going to get stuck inside like last time."

Pletcher's assistant, Mike McCarthy, said the colt was a little rank in the California Derby but called Saturday's race "textbook."

Baze saved ground around the first turn, but Connemara was in the clear.

"He felt good the whole way," Baze said. "He was on the bit but not charging. He was just waiting for me to ask him."

Michael Martinez said runner-up Haimish Hy ran well once he got outside.

Leslie Mawing thought third-place Posse Power could have won with a better trip. "I win the race if something opens up, but it never did," Mawing said. "I had nowhere to go the whole way."

Julio Garia second-guessed whether he should have let Ranger Heartley go on a bit down the backstretch but was concerned about the distance as the California Derby winner finished fifth.

McCarthy said that Connemara, owned by Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, would likely be pointed to the Santa Anita Derby. The colt earned $90,000 and now has career earnings of $147,800, with three victories in four career starts.