01/10/2012 2:57PM

Golden Gate Fields: California Derby appears wide open

Tom Keyser
Blacky the Bull will come into the California Derby off a third in the Gold Rush Stakes.

There was a time when the California Derby stood by itself as a goal for 3-year-olds at the Golden Gate Fields meeting, but now it is simply a prep race for the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby, which has become Northern California’s signature race for 3-year-olds and will be run Feb. 18.

Saturday’s running of the California Derby appears as if it will be wide open. Three of the top four finishers in Golden Gate’s last race for the divsion, the Dec. 10 Gold Rush, are expected back for the 1 1/16-mile California Derby: Winner Russian Greek, third-place finisher Blacky the Bull, and fourth-place finisher Cahill Chrome. Recent maiden winners Unveiled Heat and Reconstruction also are expected to run.

The connections of Taylors Deal, who just won the Lost in the Fog at Turf Paradise, and Hodge, who ran third in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue, were still weighing their options early in the week. Senor Rain was scratched from the Sham last Saturday at Santa Anita and could run in the California Derby.

Blacky the Bull set the pace in the Gold Rush, his first route race, before giving way late. Trainer Jeff Bonde thinks Blacky the Bull will benefit from the experience and will run well Saturday.

“He came back with some nice works,” Bonde said.

Cahill Chrome, trained by Roger Hansen, saw his three-race win streak snapped in the Gold Rush. He lugged out on the first turn and had to check at the quarter pole.

Fans attending Saturday’s race will receive a free Golden Gate Fields hooded sweatshirt.

Troublesome local debut for Kubinova

Apprentice jockey Eliska Kubinova, a 23-year-old native of Jesenik, Czech Republic, will never forget her first ride at Golden Gate Fields, which came last Friday.

Kubinova received a suspension of 10 racing days (Jan. 14-29) from the Golden Gate stewards for her part in a chain-reaction incident that resulted in two horses falling. Juan Hernandez, who rode three winners Saturday and four more Sunday, received a five-day suspension (Jan. 14-21) for the same incident.

Kubinova rode Princess Annabella to a third-place finish at 31-1 in Friday’s fifth race. Hernandez finished fourth aboard 24-1 Chris’s Contender.

After crossing the finish line, Princess Annabella drifted in on Chris’s Contender. Bold Remark, ridden by Francisco Duran, got caught in tight quarters between the two and fell. Ermine’s Prayer, ridden by Frank Alvarado, could not avoid Bold Remark and also fell.

Both horses bounced up from the tumbles, and Duran was all right. Alvarado bruised his right shoulder and was off his remaining mounts Friday and took off Saturday before returning to ride Sunday.

Kubinova was given days for “failure to make the proper effort to maintain a straight course resulting in an accident following the running of a race,” the stewards’ ruling said.

Hernandez was suspended five days from Jan.14-21 for “failure to make the proper effort to straighten his path contributing to an accident following the running of the race.”

Kubinova began her American riding career at Emerald Downs last summer, notching her first victory with her fifth mount, Get Going, who returned $55. She won four races at Emerald Downs before heading to Portland Meadows.

There was another unusual incident Friday when Jules Gold suddenly fell approaching the finish line in the eighth race.

Jules Gold got up from her mysterious fall, but jockey Inoel Beato suffered a mild concussion and bruising to his back. He was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland and kept overnight as a precautionary measure because of a previous concussion and back injury. He did not ride Saturday or Sunday, but is expected back this week.

◗ Golden Gate Fields will race Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.