Updated on 09/17/2011 10:02AM

Right race at right time


ALBANY, Calif. - For a Grade 3 race at one of racing's way stations, the El Camino Real Derby has had a surprising impact on the Triple Crown. Five horses who have won Triple Crown races, as well as Kentucky Derby runners-up Casual Lies and Cavonnier, ran in the El Camino Real.

The race, which will be run for the 22nd time Saturday, has been a regular stop along the Triple Crown trail for D. Wayne Lukas, one of the most successful Triple Crown trainers in history.

Tank's Prospect, the 1985 Preakness winner, won the El Camino Real Derby that year. In 1994, Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat won it. In 1999, Charismatic, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, ran second to Cliquot in the El Camino Real.

"I think the timing is one thing," Lukas said, explaining why the El Camino has been a springboard to Triple Crown success. "It fits well into a schedule we like for two turns at this time of year.

"If a horse is a little behind because he's started late, this is a good race. It's not a soft spot, but it's not a gut-wrencher.

"And it's a graded race. You have to start getting some graded money if you want to run in the Derby."

Lukas will run Ozzie Cat, who was second in a photo to Standard Setter in the Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby here on Jan. 11. Ozzie Cat is the 16th colt Lukas has entered in the El Camino Real Derby. Lukas is seeking to join Ron McAnally as a three-time winner of the race.

Ozzie Cat finished last in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on Feb. 15 in his most recent start but, said Lukas, he didn't handle the track and was virtually eased by rider Pat Day.

Lukas said that while Ozzie Cat is "still a little immature," he is "doing much, much better."

Day debut?

Day will ride Ten Most Wanted for trainer Wally Dollase in the El Camino Real.

Day rode Tabasco Cat to his El Camino victory when the race was run at Bay Meadows, but Saturday might mark his Golden Gate Fields debut.

"I think I must have ridden there, but I can't remember," he said. No records can be found to determine whether Day has ridden at Golden Gate.

"I'm looking forward to it. It's a nice race," Day said. "Everybody is shopping around for 3-year-olds right now, and we're light in that department. Wally is very keen on the horse, and we've had success together [with Good Journey]. We're going on Wally's assessment of horseflesh and hoping the horse runs well."

Local hopes

Don't discount the locally based horses: Allwood, Frisco Johnny, Mr. Technique, Onebadshark, and Winning Stripes. Local horses have won the past three El Caminos, four of the last five, and six of the last 11, not counting the northern California-bred Cavonnier.

Mr. Technique is the most accomplished of the local runners with two stakes wins last year. After bleeding in the Grade 2 Norfolk at Santa Anita last fall, he ran last in his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita on Feb. 1.