Updated on 09/17/2011 8:58PM

Uncle Denny captures El Camino Real Derby

Vassar Photo
Uncle Denny wins the $200,000 Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

SAN MATEO, Calif. - Uncle Denny ($6.20) boosted himself into the Kentucky Derby picture with a solid victory in the $200,000 Grade 3 at Bay Meadows on Saturday.

Currently not nominated to the Triple Crown, Uncle Denny will probably be supplemented for $6,000 after earning $110,000 in the graded race. It boosted his career earning to $244,913 as he scored his fourth victory in five starts.

Jockey Russell Baze followed trainer Rafael Becerra's instructions to the letter, letting Uncle Denny take advantage of his natural speed. Asked to rate in the Sham Stakes in his last start on Feb. 5, Uncle Denny lugged out into the first turn.

Although Vasilias outsprinted Uncle Denny to the first turn, Baze let the colt go and was only a head behind through brisk opening fractions of 22.63 and 45.68, while sitting between Vasilias and Big Top Cat.

Once Uncle Denny put Vasilias away, he withstood challenges from Big Top Cat just outside him and Wind Water, who moved four wide into contention down the backstretch.

Uncle Denny opened up in the lane and was never seriously challenged as Wannawinemall and Buzzards Bay closed well but couldn't cut into the 2 1/4 length winning margin. The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile race was 1:42.22.

"I knew we were going fast," said Baze, who took the lead after running the first six furlongs in 1:09.96. "But he was doing it all underneath me. I took a long cross and let him run and tried to get him to relax as much as I could.

"He didn't mind those other horses running up to him. He ran fast enough to keep his head in front. When I shook him up at the quarter (pole), he opened up, and he re-broke again after the wire."

Becerra, who had St. Averil ready to run in the Kentucky Derby for Uncle Denny's owner Stan Fulton last year before a foot injury forced a late scratch, said he has always believed in Uncle Denny's potential and had told Fulton Uncle Denny might be better than St. Averil.

"I think he's the best horse I've had on my hands," said Becerra, who mentioned the Santa Anita Derby or Wood Memorial as a possible next start.

"We need to talk to the boss," he said. "We'll look around at where to run him next. We need to meet good ones to find out his potential."

Uncle Denny was favored over locally based Stellar Magic, who also went off at 2.10-to-1. Stellar Magic ran last after being badly bothered when forced to steady sharply approaching the quarter pole.