Updated on 09/16/2011 8:37AM

Royal Gem narrow winner in Bay Meadows Derby


SAN MATEO, Calif. - Royal Gem ($6.80) got a perfect stalking trip to win a three-way photo in the Bay Meadows Derby (G3) at Bay Meadows on Sunday.

Odds-on favorite Century City dwelt at the start and seemed out of contention heading into the stretch before unleashing a strong kick to finish third, a neck and a nose behind Royal Gem and Aly Bubba, the second longest shot on the board in the (about) 1 1/8-mile turf race that was run in 1:48.38.

Aly Bubba and Surprized set a very slow pace in the race with fractions of 25.56, 51.00 and 1:15.90.

Royal Gem sat in third early, was passed briefly by Century City, who was able to get into contention behind the slow pace, and then edged ahead of the favorite again.

Royal Gem, who raced three wide most of the way, was a head behind Surprized heading into the lane with Aly Bubba another head back. Century City was along the inside and swung out as the field of eight straightened out into the lane.

Royal Gem was under strong urging from Russell Baze as he determinedly got a narrow lead and held on in the lane.

"We got a great trip, an easy pace and out in the clear all the way," Baze said.

Aly's Bubba was just as resolute, finishing well between horses and barely holding on for second over the flying Century City, who was one-half length in front of Surprized.

"I felt good because we had the favorite inside," Humberto Ascanio, trainer Bobby Frankel's assistant, said. "At the head of the stretch, I thought he could sprint away."

Holly Evans, trainer of longshot Aly Bubba, nearly pulled off the biggest win of her career. She was not surprised her colt ran so well.

"He's had some funny races. Weird things have happened to him," she said. "I like him. You can look at his Beyers and his numbers on the turf, but I know him. He tries. He'll do whatever you want."

Century City's trainer Beau Greely said, "This sure wasn't what we were looking for, but the one we really want is the Hollywood Derby. It was very disappointing today, but he should get a lot out of this. We'll spend some time schooling him at the gate before the Hollywood Derby."

He may not meet Royal Gem in the $500,000 Grade 1 race on Dec. 1.

"I don't know where he'll run next," Ascanio said. "We've got a lot of good ones. I'm sure Bobby will play the right cards."

Century City's jockey Mike Smith said his colt seemed startled by the gates opening.

"If the assistant starter hadn't kicked him a couple of times, he's still be in there," he said. "He just dwelt. He's a nice colt, and he made a nice run, but they went too easy on the lead. We came running, but they were flying home."

Royal Gem earned $55,000 and lifted his lifetime earnings to $141,760 with three wins in five starts.