03/13/2004 12:00AM

Kilgowan captures El Camino Real Derby

Bill Vass
Kilgowan wins the $200,000 Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

ALBANY, Calif. - Kilgowan ($55.80) gained redemption for a disappointing effort in the Golden State Mile, closing strongly after being bumped in the stretch to win the $200,000 Grade 3 at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Kilgowan sat back early as Wildwood Flower and Capitano alternated on the lead. He moved out into the stretch but was knocked off stride by Skipaslew near the eighth pole. He recovered quickly and outfinished Capitano and favored Seattle Borders to win by one-half length while covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.87.

Capitano and Seattle Borders wound up in a dead head for second, one head in front of trouble-plagued O.K. Mikie.

"He's a very big horse, and her reared in the gate and bumped his head last time," winning trainer Lonnie Arterburn said. "He ran dazed in the race. Immediately after the race, I went back to the barn with head down. He wasn't breathing hard at all and didn't even take a sip of water so I was thinking he might not be feeling well. The next morning, Chance (Rollins, his jockey) to me he hit his head pretty good before the race. Two days late, the colt was full of himself and had to go back to the track."

Rollins said he wasn't sure how bad the incident affected the Ann Marie Farm homebred.

"I'm not going to say that's what cost him," Rollins said. "Because he's a young horse, I did ask him. I didn't know if he wasn't trying or was hurt."

Rollins relaxed Kilgowan early when he was about to run up on heels in the first turn. He got a good stalking trip on the inside and moved out for room into the stretch.

"I was going to give him every shot even if he had to go wide," Rollins said. "When he gets rolling, you don't want to stop him."

But he almost got stopped as Skipaslew bumped him hard.

"I think that helped him," Rollins said. "He has a tendency to stay on his left lead, and he changed after that."

Both Capitano and Seattle Borders, who stalked in third early, had clean trips most of the way. Capitano took the lead at the eighth pole, but could not hold off either Kilgowan or Seattle Borders or not trying.

"My horse propped at the sixteenth pole," said Capitano's rider Jose Valdivia Jr. "When he was clear of those horses, he lost his concentration. As soon as he saw them, he rallied, but it was too late."

Kent Desormeaux said he tried to keep Seattle Borders wide so that he wouldn't get dirt in his face after winning two turf races. He said the colt was too aggressive most of the race.

"I thought I was done on the second turn, but Bobby Frankel horses just don't quit. The good news is there's room for improvement."

O.K. Mikie broke slowly and was bumped by Skipsaslew. He trailed early but began to pick off horses down the backstretch. He had to shift out at the eighth pole, losing momentum before closing strongly.

"Basically, I was on the best horse. He just ran out of luck," O.K. Mikie's jockey Adalberto Lopez said. "The top three had no trouble. I feel bad for Jerry (McArthur the trainer)."

Arterburn said Kilgowan will likely be a late nominee to the Kentucky Derby and will likely make his next start in the California Derby on April 17 at Bay Meadows.

Kilgowan earned $110,000 for his third victory in five starts and now has career earnings of $153,375.