02/12/2011 9:57PM

Silver Medallion soothes some of Asmussen's sting by winning El Camino Real

Marcel Langevin/Vassar Photography
Silver Medallion gives jockey Russell Baze his third consecutive El Camino Real Derby victory.

ALBANY, Calif. – Racing fortunes can change quickly, and they did for trainer Steve Asmussen on Saturday when Silver Medallion won the 30th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

Barely 90 minutes earlier, Tapizar, the top 3-year-old in Asmussen’s barn, was fifth as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis at Santa Anita. Anthony’s Cross, the winner of the Lewis, was cross-entered in the El Camino Real but scratched.

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Silver Medallion ($15), who was coming off his first stakes win in the Eddie Logan on the turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 31, sat fourth behind Jakesam, who set steady fractions in the 1 1/8-mile race, before beginning to move up on the turn.

Odds-on favorite Comma to the Top had sat well-positioned about two lengths behind Jakesam to the quarter pole, pulled within a head, and seemed to have momentum into the lane. But he seemed to tire and began to drift out, brushing Silver Medallion and jockey Russell Baze slightly.

Silver Medallion was untroubled by the incident and drove to the lead, taking over inside the eighth pole and continuing on for a 1¼-length victory, holding off Jakesam, who continued gamely to the wire.

The winning time was 1:50.45.

Local favorite Positive Response, who defeated Jakesam in the California Derby, settled off the pace in the early going and rallied for third, three-quarters of a length behind Jakesam, as Comma to the Top, sent off at 1-2 odds, finished fourth, ending his five-race winning streak.  

“I talked to Steve this morning,” Baze said. “He said the horse can be a twit. He was calm and very relaxed today.”

As the race unfolded, Baze said he thought it was setting up nicely for Comma to the Top as did the favorite’s rider, Corey Nakatani.

“It was a perfect scenario,” said Nakatani. “We wanted to get him some experience with a target to run at. On the far turn, I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone, but then everything changed. He just didn’t finish.”

Baze was surprised with the ease he got past Comma to the Top.

“I thought Comma to the Top would move a little earlier than he did. I got up to Comma to the Top, and he didn’t really answer the challenge. He let us go right by. I was surprised. This horse made a nice, long, sustained run.”

Jakesam’s rider, Frank Alvarado, said his colt tried to re-rally after being passed.

“I think he gave me everything he had,” Alvarado said.

Julien Couton said Positive Response, who was the second choice in the field of six, was a little flat.

It was Baze’s eighth El Camino Real Derby win, his third straight, following Connemara and Chocolate Candy, and sixth in seven years.

The win was the first step for Silver Medallion in the special $5.5 million Preakness bonus. If he wins the Santa Anita Derby on April 9 and Preakness Stakes on May 21, his owner, Michael J. Ryan will receive $5 million with Asmussen getting $500,000.

The victory was worth $120,000 for Silver Medallion, a son of Badge of Silver who won his third race in six starts. It was his first victory on a synthetic surface. His other two career wins came on turf.

Silver Medallion, a $150,000 Keeneland yearling purchase in September 2009, has now earned $212,904.