02/14/2013 12:40PM

Golden Gate: Baffert taking two shots at El Camino Real Derby with Manando and Carving

Benoit & Associates
The Bob Baffert-trained Manando, here running third in the Sham behind Goldencents and Den's Legacy, is the 9-5 El Camino Real Derby favorite.

Trainer Bob Baffert doubled down on Saturday’s 32nd running of the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

Baffert had indicated early in the week that he would ship Carving north to run in the race, which awards 10 points to the winner in the new eligibility system for the Kentucky Derby. When Wednesday’s draw was held, he also entered Manando, who was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the field of nine.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Carving is the 3-1 third choice behind 5-2 Zeewat, who has won the two local preps for the 1 1/8-mile El Camino, the one-mile Gold Rush and the 1 1/16-mile California Derby.

Aaron Gryder, who was second in the Golden Gate standings last year and is now riding in Southern California, will ride Manando for the first time.

“The fans will see him before I do,” Gryder said.

A $300,000 purchase last March at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s selected auction of 2-year-olds, Manando has one win and four thirds in five career starts. He won a maiden race at 1 1/16 miles at Betfair Hollywood Park on Dec. 13 and then set the pace in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita before fading to third late. He earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure and was 15 lengths in front of the fourth-place finisher in the field of five.

A son of Bluegrass Cat, Manando is owned by Kaleem Shah.

He’ll have a pace rival in Wildcat Moon, the California Derby runner-up who drew the rail.

Gryder knows Golden Gate’s Tapeta surface can be tiring, and he says that whether he makes the lead or not, his most important job is to “let the horse get comfortable.”

Carving, who has won the C.B. Afflerbaugh at Fairplex and the Real Quiet at Hollywood, also has some speed but will likely get a stalking trip under Victor Espinoza.

While Manando looks tough on paper, he will have to deal with Zeewat, undefeated since stretching out and adding blinkers.

Leading rider Russell Baze and leading trainer Jerry Hollendorfer team up with Zeewat. Baze has eight El Camino wins, including six in the past eight years, and Hollendorfer has saddled five El Camino winners. The two have won four El Caminos together, with Event of the Year (1998), Cause to Believe (2006), Bwana Bull (2007), and Chocolate Candy (2009).

Hollendorfer added blinkers to Zeewat’s equipment at Baze’s suggestion, and the Harlan’s Holiday colt promptly won the Gold Rush by 3 1/4 lengths and the California Derby by a half-length.

“If Russell makes a suggestion, 99 percent of the time I take it,” Hollendorfer said. “He said he thought the horse wasn’t focused coming down the lane, so we added small blinkers.”

[EL CAMINO REAL: Get PPs, watch Saturday's Golden Gate card live]

Zeewat has made all six of his starts in California. Would Hollendorfer send him out of town for a Kentucky Derby prep if he wins the El Camino Real?

“Zeewat has displayed enough to be able to run in the biggest race in Northern California,” he said. “I’m happy with progress, but this race is all I’m thinking about. There will be plenty of options to consider after the race.”

Wildcat Moon led most of the way in the California Derby and was beaten a half-length. Trainer Jeff Bonde is hopeful he will improve off that race, which was his first route. The D’wildcat colt has five- and six-furlong bullet works since the California Derby.

“We’ve worked to get him relaxed,” Bonde said. “We’ve been giving him longer gallops and schooling in the gate. We’ll see on race day.”