02/20/2017 4:33PM

Road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby: El Camino Real Derby analysis

Shane Miceli/Vassar Photography
Zakaroff wins the El Camino Real Derby.

Grade 3, $200,450 El Camino Real Derby, 1 1/8 miles (synthetic), Golden Gate Fields, Feb. 18, 2017
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Zakaroff, by Slew’s Tiznow
Trainer: Steve Specht
Jockey: Kyle Frey
Owner: Antone Metaxas
Beyer Speed Figure: 77

This didn’t appear to be a very strong race on paper, and it certainly played out that way, with none of the top three – following the disqualification of the original runner-up, ANN ARBOR EDDIE – even being nominated to the Triple Crown.

ZAKAROFF, the winner, had finished a dull fifth against a similar bunch four weeks earlier in the California Derby. As a result, he was sent off the longest shot of the seven runners in this field, and rewarded his backers with a $99.60 payoff.

The winning Beyer figure was the weakest of the Derby preps run to date, and was the first to dip into the 70s. Considering the overall quality of this race, the fact it is run on synthetic, and the seeming disinterest of the connections of the top finishers to even consider the Triple Crown, this race shouldn’t have any impact on the Derby trail.

Zakaroff bumped with MORE POWER TO HIM leaving the gate, saved ground from his rail draw around the first turn while toward the back of a bunched-up field, continued to save ground around the far turn, found a sweet seam in upper stretch and was angled to the three path for room, and wore down Ann Arbor Eddie in the final sixteenth.

Ann Arbor Eddie, who crossed the wire second, was jostled between rivals leaving the gate, led into the first turn while on the inside, remained inside while lapped on the leaders down the backstretch, advanced three furlongs out to volley for the lead, held the advantage into the lane, then drifted out with a sixteenth to go, interfering with TRIBAL STORM, who crossed the wire fourth. As a result, Ann Arbor Eddie was disqualified and placed fourth.

More Power to Him, who crossed the wire third, bumped with Zakaroff at the start, was wrangled back between horses in the two path around the first turn, dropped back to last down the backstretch, raced in the clear in last while in the three path for much of the final turn, was fanned five paths wide entering the lane, was very late and awkward changing leads a furlong out, made up some ground, then was kissed into second on the DQ of Ann Arbor Eddie.

Tribal Storm, who crossed the wire fourth, bumped with rivals on both sides of him leaving the gate, moved up to challenge for the lead into the first turn and then took the lead entering the backstretch, battled for the lead on the final turn with Ann Arbor Eddie to his inside and KONA DREAMS to his outside, could not keep up with Ann Arbor Eddie in upper stretch, then had to take up in deep stretch when Ann Arbor Eddie drifted out, likely costing him third and thus resulting in the DQ of Ann Arbor Eddie, which moved Tribal Storm up to third.

COLONEL SAMSEN, who finished fifth, raced four to five paths wide around the first turn while toward the rear of a bunched field, never was able to get over down the backstretch and wound up four paths wide on the far turn, took until midstretch to change leads and finished evenly.

Kona Dreams, who finished sixth, moved up cleanly from his outside draw to volley for the lead while three to four paths wide on the first turn while under a snug hold, battled for the lead from the three path entering the far turn, came under an aggressive ride midway on the final turn and steadily faded through the lane.

SHEER FLATTERY, who finished last of seven, veered in sharply at the start and slammed into Tribal Storm, raced between horses while in the three path while near the rear of the bunched field on the first turn, raced between horses while just behind the dueling leaders into the far turn, was right alongside Zakaroff midway on the final turn, but had zero response in the lane. He had shown in his prior start, the Robert Lewis (http://www.drf.com/news/road-derby-robert-b-lewis-analysis), that he wasn’t anything special.