01/12/2012 2:25PM

Golden Gate: California Derby wide open

Vassar Photography
Russian Greek, with Inoel Beato riding, wins the Gold Rush.

There are no real stars in Saturday’s $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields, which means it’s hard to tell if the race will produce serious contenders for the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 18. But from a betting perspective, just about any one of the seven 3-year-olds signed up for the 1 1/16-mile Tapeta race could jump up and win.

There is only one stakes winner in the field – Russian Greek, who won the one-mile Gold Rush on Dec. 10. There are three stakes-placed runners – Hodge, who will make his first start since finishing third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue on Nov. 24; Senor Rain, second in both the C.B. Afflerbaugh at Fairplex and third at Saturday’s distance in the $100,000 Real Quiet at Hollywood Park; and Blacky the Bull, who ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint before finishing third in the Gold Rush.

Rounding out the field are Cahill Chrome, who had a three-race win streak snapped with a fourth-place finish in the Gold Rush, and Unveiled Heat and Reconstruction, both coming off a maiden victory.

Reconstruction and Blacky the Bull have the best speed and could set a fast early pace. Senor Rain, Hodge, and Cahill Chrome have also shown speed. That could set things up for Unveiled Heat and Russian Greek to come from off the pace.

Jerry Hollendorfer sends out Russian Greek and Reconstruction, who drew the two outside posts.

Russian Greek won his debut July 30 on dirt at Santa Rosa, then did little in the Golden Nugget here in his second start in November. Russian Greek came from as far as 12 lengths off the pace to win the one-mile Gold Rush by a neck over Marshal Marini, with Blacky the Bull another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

“He’s by Giant’s Causeway, and it seems like they want to go long,” Hollendorfer said.

Reconstruction has led early in all three of his starts, winning a six-furlong maiden race in December here in his last start. Reconstruction has yet to attempt two turns, although his sire, Broken Vow, did his best running going long.

Unveiled Heat, trained by Steve Specht, also comes off a maiden win. He came from four lengths back early to win a 1 1/16-mile turf race here Dec. 4.

“He fits well,” said Specht.

Hodge dueled for the lead in the Hollywood Prevue and ended up third behind So Brilliant and Brother Francis. He also showed sharp speed in his maiden win, which came going 5 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.

“He’s a nice little colt,” said trainer Michael Machowsky, who signed up Russell Baze to ride Hodge. “He’s fresh and he should like two turns, and he’s not taking on any world-beaters there.”