12/26/2012 1:26PM

Golden Gate: Zeewat top local for California Derby

Vassar Photography
Zeewat has worked twice since this Dec. 8 victory in the Gold Rush Stakes and is being pointed for the $100,000 California Derby on Jan. 12.

The first stakes of the Golden Gate meeting, the $100,000 California Derby is two weeks away (Jan. 12). Zeewat, who won the one-mile Gold Rush in impressive fashion, looks like the top local contender in the 1 1/16-mile derby.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Zeewat has two stakes victories, having also captured the Cavonnier at Santa Rosa. Baze has been aboard for both stakes victories and suggested that Hollendorfer add blinkers before the Gold Rush.

Zeewat has a pair of works since his Dec. 8 Gold Rush victory, with a 48-second half-mile on Dec. 16 and a 1:02 five-furlong work on Dec. 22.

Condiment, second by 3 1/4 lengths in the Gold Rush, and My Best Bet, third and a length further back, also are being considered for the derby. My Best Bet had his first work since the Gold Rush with an easy 49.80 half-mile on Christmas Eve.

Russell Baze rode a pair of impressive maiden winners this month, but neither one – Gratian, trained by Keith Nations, and China Prince, trained by Dan Franko – has worked since his win.

Some horses from Southern California may ship up for the California Derby, which is a prep for the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 16.

The 1 1/16-mile California Oaks for 3-year-old fillies will be held Feb. 9, and its purse has been cut from $100,000 last year to $50,000 this year.

The last two Oaks winners have gone on to win graded stakes. Lilacs and Lace, the 2011 winner, won the Grade 1 Ashland, while last year’s winner, Lady of Fifty, won the Grade 2 Bayakoa in her last start.

But only four runners entered the 2011 race, with only three finishing, and this past year’s edition had only six entrants. Field size was the primary reason for the purse cut, racing secretary David Jerkens said.

“Hopefully, next year we’ll get the California Oaks purse increased,” Jerkens said.