Updated on 01/15/2012 12:08PM

Golden Gate Fields: Russian Greek goes from last to first in California Derby

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Stacia Mumm/Vassar Photography
Russian Greek, ridden by Aaron Gryder, captures the California Derby, giving trainer Jerry Hollendorfer his fifth win in the stakes.

Russian Greek, last through the first six furlongs, rallied through the stretch to defeat longshot Cahill Chrome and win the $100,520 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Russian Greek ($5.40), who rallied along the rail to win the Gold Rush Stakes in his previous start, moved up in the three-path on the second turn. Aaron Gryder steered Russian Greek wide into the stretch for clear sailing, and the Giant's Causeway colt came flying.

Racing in fifth, 3 1/2 lengths behind Cahill Chrome, at 29-1 the longest shot in the field of seven, Russian Greek wound up winning the 1 1/16-mile race by one length in 1:45.07. Cahill Chrome finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Senor Rain, who was three-quarters of a length in front of morning-line favorite Hodge, who went off at 9-5.

"At the five-eighths pole, he was on a beautiful stride, and I felt good," said Gryder. "He eased up to them, and, when I got him clear on the turn, he extended. I was confident he'd get there because it felt like he was getting stronger and stronger."

Russian Greek, a $100,000 Keeneland weanling purchase in November 2009, earned $60,000 for his third career victory in four starts and lifted his career earnings to $121,700 for Olympia Star Inc.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer earned his fifth California Derby win, the most of any trainer. He also won with the filly Pike Place Dancer, who later won the Kentucky Oaks, in 1994, Cause to Believe in 2006, Bwana Bull in 2007, and Chocolate Candy in 2009.

"I never thought of him as a sprinter, and I think he has proved that out," said Hollendorfer.

He said that Russian Greek will be pointed to the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 18.