02/10/2011 12:15PM

El Camino Real all about Comma to the Top


Grade 3 El Camino Real - Golden Gate Fields - Race 8
Est. Post Time: 7:15 p.m. Eastern - Feb. 12, 2010

Seven 3-year-olds are entered in Saturday’s 30th running of the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, but all the attention will be on one horse: Comma to the Top.

The $200,000 El Camino Real Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race on the Tapeta main track, is the richest race of the Golden Gate meet and is part of the Preakness 5.5, a series of races for 3-year-olds at MI Developments-owned racetracks. Any horse who can win two of several designated stakes and then the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico would earn a $5.5 million bonus for his connections.

Comma to the Top has won five straight races, beginning with a pair of victories at Golden Gate Fields and culminating with a victory in the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18. The No. 4-ranked 3-year-old on Daily Racing Form’s Watchmaker Watch, Comma to the Top is undefeated since stretching out around two turns, having won the Grade 3 Generous on the Hollywood turf and the Real Quiet on the main track there in addition to the CashCall.

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A $22,000 purchase as a 2-year-old, Comma to the Top began his career in a $40,000 maiden claimer and didn’t graduate until his third start, when he ran for a $50,000 tag. But his stakes victories and a fourth-place finish last summer in the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar have already given him more than enough graded-stakes earnings to assure him a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.<

Comma to the Top has also been entered for the Grade 2 Robert Lewis at Santa Anita on Saturday, but trainer Peter Miller said he will run the Bwana Charlie gelding at Golden Gate. If his works are any indication, he should justify his status as the 6-5 morning-line favorite. His works, all at Hollywood, include a 1:24.60 seven-furlong drill, a 1:10.40 six-furlong work, and two five-furlong bullets, including a 59.40 in his final prep Sunday.

“He’s doing it easy,” said Miller. “He’s doing it nice. He’s never felt the whip in the morning and is training really well.”

Although Miller said he sent Comma to the Top north because he thinks the El Camino Real will be an easier spot than the Robert Lewis, which is headed by Sham Stakes winner Tapizar, Comma to the Top could have his work cut out for him.

A horse who races on or just off the pace, Comma to the Top drew the rail, with the speedy Jakesam likely to apply early pressure from the outside post 7. That could present a pace challenge for Comma to the Top’s jockey, Corey Nakatani, but Miller expresses no concern.

“I always thought he would rate, and I’ve worked him behind horses quite a bit,” Miller said. “He’s not rank. He just has a fast cruising speed.”

Comma to the Top’s primary challenge could come from Positive Response, winner of three straight races and also undefeated around two turns. The first two wins came on the front end, but he showed an ability to rate in winning the California Derby on Jan. 15 in his last start.

Trainer Billy Morey calls the El Camino Real Positive Response’s “tell-tale race.”

“This will tell us where he goes on from here,” he said

The Steve Asmussen-trained Silver Medallion will be ridden by Russell Baze, who has won the past three El Caminos among his seven victories in the race. Silver Medallion comes off a victory in the Eddie Logan on the turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 31.

Rounding out the field are Bluegrass Reward, Formula Gold, and Anthony’s Cross.