12/12/2012 1:02PM

Golden Gate notes: Zeewat gives Baze prime California Derby mount

Vassar Photography
Zeewat captures the Gold Rush under Russell Baze. The California Derby could be next.

Russell Baze added two more candidates to his California Derby contenders list over the weekend at Golden Gate Fields.

On Saturday, Zeewat won the one-mile Gold Rush under Baze for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. On Sunday, Baze guided China Prince to his maiden victory for trainer Daniel Franko. Both could end up in the Jan. 12 California Derby.

Baze was originally going to ride Carving for trainer Bob Baffert in the Gold Rush, but Baffert decided not to enter the colt and will instead send him in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood on Saturday. Baze would have ridden Fury Kapcori for Hollendorfer, but that one also is going in the CashCall.

Instead, Baze rode Zeewat, who won the Cavonnier in August at Santa Rosa with Baze aboard.

Zeewat was coming off a third to stablemate Outside Nashville in the six-furlong Golden Nugget on Nov. 10. Hollendorfer said after the Golden Nugget that Zeewat would be better when he got more distance, and he was proved right in the Gold Rush.

Hollendorfer added blinkers to Zeewat’s equipment in the Gold Rush, the Harlan’s Holiday colt’s two-turn debut.

The change was made at the suggestion of Baze, who said: “He’s a different horse with blinkers on. It really woke him up. He’s had a lot more life in the morning, working on his own.”

Hollendorfer said that was typical of the way he and Baze work together.

“That’s how I work with Russell on a lot of different things,” he said. “He makes suggestions. He’s riding the horse, so I give him whatever he wants.”

Zeewat was third early in the Gold Rush through a slow half-mile in 49.85 seconds. He took the lead a half-mile from the finish and won by 3 1/4 lengths, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 80. Zeewat ran the final quarter-mile faster than the first three.

“He was up on the bit and wanting to run the whole way,” Baze said. “He has a great way of traveling, and, when I set him down he extended his stride and away he went.”

Condiment and My Best Bet finished second and third just as they had when Zeewat won the Cavonnier and as they had behind Fury Kapcori in the one-mile Charlie Palmer at Fresno.

Maiden winner shows stakes potential

China Prince won a one-mile maiden race Sunday in the manner of a good horse, and Franco said he is not ruling out the California Derby for the gelding’s next start.

Baze put China Prince on the lead in Sunday’s race. He rated nicely and pulled away in the lane for 3 1/4-length victory. He earned a 76 Beyer, four points less than Zeewat’s figure.

“It’s nice to get a nice horse,” Franco said. “I believe he’s the best I’ve ever had.”

Franco paid $1,000 for China Prince at last September’s Pleasanton sale. China Prince got sick at the sale and was not brought out to be shown to potential buyers. As a result, Franco was the only bidder. He said he bought China Prince because he used to own his dam, China Princess, who earned $86,000 running mostly in the starter-allowance or California-bred allowance ranks.

“She was a solid mare,” he said.

A son of Peppered Cat, China Prince graduated in his third start after having finished third and then second. All three starts came at one mile.

“He’s got pretty good size and a nice stride,” Franco said. “That’s why we started him at a mile. I loved that horse the first time I worked him.”

Aside from the California Derby, Franco said he will consider running China Prince back in a Golden Gate or Santa Anita allowance race, perhaps on turf. His dam won on turf and, Franco said, “he has big feet, that usually means horses can handle turf.”

Big day for Hollendorfer

Saturday was a big day for Hollendorfer, who won the first two races at Golden Gate Fields with Macha ($11.80) and Welcome Home Ryan ($12.40) before Zeewat’s Gold Rush victory in the third race.

Minutes after Zeewat went to the winner’s circle, Hollendorfer was in the winner’s circle himself at Betfair Hollywood Park with Chosen Miracle ($15.20), who won the fourth race. Lady of Fifty ($8.80) returned Hollendorfer to Hollywood’s winner’s circle when she won the Grade 2 Bayakoa in the sixth race, and later on the card Scarlet Strike ran third for Hollendorfer at nearly 20-1 in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet.

Short field for Oakland

Saturday’s running of the $50,000 Oakland Stakes at six furlongs was in the balance heading into Wednesday’s draw.

Early in the week, only three were set to run in the six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up: Gig Harbor, Shudacudawudya, and Northern Causeway.

Shudacudawudya’s stablemate Cardiffbythesea might be entered to make the race go. Ain’t No Other, who has won 3 of 4 starts at Golden Gate Fields, also was considered possible.

◗ Frank Mirahmadi, who announces at Oaklawn Park and also is the voice of the Northern California fairs, will substitute for Michael Wrona Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the final three days of the meet. Wrona is heading to Argentina to call that nation’s biggest race, the Grade 1 Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini, for HRTV on Saturday.