02/12/2013 2:55PM

Golden Gate Fields: El Camino Real Derby highlights holiday weekend

Benoit Photo
Carving, trained by Bob Baffert, has the best credentials among the El Camino Real invaders.

Golden Gate Fields is preparing for its biggest weekend of the year, a three-day splurge that includes two stakes, featuring the track’s signature race, the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby, a $100,000-guaranteed pick four on Saturday and two dollar days.

The El Camino, which will be run Saturday, has produced a Kentucky Derby winner – and Horse of the Year – in Charismatic in 1999 as well as five Preakness winners: Gate Dancer, Tank’s Prospect, and Snow Chief in consecutive years from 1984-86, Tabasco Cat in 1994 and Charismatic, and a Belmont winner in Tabasco Cat. In addition, two Derby runners-up, Casual Lies in 1992 and Cavonnier in 1996, and a Belmont runner-up, Ten Most Wanted in 2003, also ran in the El Camino.

Thirty runners were nominated to the El Camino Real Derby. Leading the way for the home team are Zeewat, winner of the Cavonnier at Santa Rosa last summer as well as this year’s local El Camino preps, the Gold Rush and California Derby. Also expected is California Derby runner-up Wildcat Moon. Trainer Bob Baffert’s multiple-stakes-winning Carving has the best credentials of the invaders, and the trainer was still considering Manando early in the week.

Early confirmed runners also included Counting Days and Dice Flavor from Southern California and locals Nina’s Dragon and North Pacific.

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

Nina’s Dragon ran third in his first try around two turns, losing by only a length to Greeley Awesome and Rush In, who were nominated to the El Camino.

“He’s really a nice colt,” said trainer Lloyd Mason, who also trained Nina’s Dragon’s dam, Just Lookn. “He got in trouble going into the first turn and got a little erratic and had a little trouble down the backside.”

Golden Gate’s general manager, Joe Morris, is enthusiastic that the race will be carried live in a one-hour telecast by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

The local sports network carries the Giants and A’s baseball teams, the NBA’s Warriors and NHL’s Sharks. It carried last year’s running, bringing in 13 high definition cameras to cover the event in the major-league fashion it covers baseball, basketball, and hockey.

Lee Siegel, the network’s assistant news director and a longtime fan of racing, will produce the telecast with Mark Wolfson directing and Richard Zinn serving as the executive producer.

“Last year’s race was just awesome,” Siegel said of a nose victory by the aptly named Daddy Nose Best after a stretch-long duel with Happy Chappy. “The track was great to work with.”

Siegel and his crew will end up having spent nearly two weeks at the track putting together features.

Zinn says he will again have 13 high-definition cameras, more than he uses for baseball coverage, in place around the track. His cameras will also replace the two that Golden Gate Fields uses on the roof for the pan shots of each race.

Jacket giveaway, seminar on tap

Saturday will be a big day with the running of the El Camino. Fans that day will receive a fleece jacket with a newly designed El Camino Real logo. Daily Racing Form handicappers Dan Illman and Mike Beer will conduct a racing seminar. Author Richard Maturi will be available to autograph copies of his new book “Triple Crown Winner: The Earl Sande Saga.”

Sunday will be the traditional dollar day, as will the President’s Day holiday Monday.

The $50,000 Albany at six furlongs will be run Monday, and Albany residents will get in free that day just by showing their driver’s license.

Reading the Oaks outcome

When five runners finish within a length of each other, it’s not usually the sign of a superior race. But it does make it exciting for fans.

How well runners do coming out of this past Saturday’s California Oaks is open to question, but beaten favorite Marks Mine, who was the runner-up, certainly looks capable of future success. Butterfly Soul, who flattened out late, gets a better-than-looks notation for her effort.

The winner was the Doug O’Neill-trained Redressthebalance. The Irish-bred won her first race in the United States after running eighth in the Grade 3 Miesque in her first U.S. start and sixth in a sprint down the hill at Santa Anita.

Christian Santiago Reyes, the Eclipse apprentice winner of 2009, followed instructions to the letter aboard Redressthebalance, settling nicely in midpack. He said he then just had to “wait, wait, wait.” When he finally turned her loose, Redressthebalance wore down the game Marks Mine.

Marks Mine was a bit wide on the first turn as Revive Me sped to the lead. Although jockey Abel Cedillo was content to stalk, Marks Mine wanted the lead, so he let her go instead of fighting her. She was clocked in 47.67 seconds for the half – fast over Golden Gate’s Tapeta surface – after sitting a length behind Revive Me, who ran a 24.11-second opening quarter.

Revive Me finished last, but Marks Mine didn’t give up and did hold off Sweet Tess by a nose for second with Macha – who at 18-1 was the lowest price of four horses sent out by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer – another head back and a neck in front of Butterfly Soul.

The Hollendorfer-trained trio of Jerry’shoneycarol, Isadaisybelle, and Revive Me brought up the rear.

Trainer Steven Specht is looking at the $200,000 Evening Echo for 3-year-old California-bred fillies on March 30 at Santa Anita for Marks Mine’s next start. Nations has two for AlbanyTrainer Keith Nations plans to send out both Bailouttheminister, who won last year’s Sam Whiting at Pleasanton, and Hexbreaker in the Albany. Coach Bob, Gallant Son, who has finished second and third in the past two San Francisco Miles, Northern Causeway and Shrug are also expected to run.