01/15/2011 10:23PM

Positive Response proves he can come from off the pace in California Derby

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Marcel Langevin/Vassar Photography
Positive Response shows he is more than just a one-dimensional front-runner by rallying to capture the California Derby.

ALBANY, Calif. – Employing new tactics after a pair of wire-to-wire victories, including the Gold Rush Stakes, favored Positive Response rallied on the second turn and pulled away in the stretch to capture the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday.

Breaking sharply from the No. 11 post under jockey Julien Couton, Positive Response ($4.80) was content to settle in fifth behind a group of runners who seemed keen on taking the lead. Although he was four wide around the first turn, he was running comfortably and eased into contention running down the backstretch.

Jakesam took the lead down the backstretch with Couton letting Positive Response begin to run from the three-path on the second turn. Positive Response caught the leader midway around the turn and had his head in front at the quarter pole. He extended the advantage to  1 1/2 lengths by the eighth pole and defeated Jakesam by 2 3/4 lengths, running the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.56. Bluegrass Reward was another length back in third.

The victory was the third straight for Positive Result, a son of Pomeroy, since stretching out to two turns. Although he came from off the pace for the first time, his interior fractions in the California Derby were faster then he ran in his first two victories, including his win last time out in the Gold Rush.

Trainer Billy Morey was excited by the performance.

“He’s on the improve, that’s for sure,” Morey said. “A lot of people thought he got an easy lead last time against lesser competition. I’m so proud he proved he can come from off the pace. He made a major-league move at the three-eighths pole. He made a move into a hot pace and still finished.”

Couton was confident the whole trip.

“He was very sharp today and we had a perfect trip,” said Couton. “He broke good and we got in perfect position off the pace. On the backstretch he was moving nice and easy.

“When we took the lead he kind of waited for something. He needs a little time to get going. When he switches leads, he’s gone. That was a perfect race for him. Now we know he can come from behind. He’s definitely the best 3-year-old at Golden Gate Fields.”

Positive Response, a $75,000 purchase by Morey, Saul Gevertz, Roger Newman, and Ray Pagano after winning his maiden on Sept. 24 at Woodbine, earned $60,000 to increase his career earnings to $139,681 with $116,880 coming for his new owners.

Dancing At Dark, trained by John Sadler, who won last year’s California Derby with Ranger Heartley, finished last under Barrington Harvey, who replaced leading rider Russell Baze, who was injured earlier in the day.