01/28/2008 12:00AM

Yankee Bravo captures California Derby

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ALBANY, Calif. - Yankee Bravo improved his career record to 3 for 3 when he rallied through heavy traffic on the second turn and made a strong move once he shifted out for room to defeat 11 rivals in the $150,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Sunday.

The 3-year-old Yankee Bravo, purchased after owner Richard Duggan saw a tape of his maiden victory in a five-furlong race on the turf in Britain, won his U.S. debut at Santa Anita on Dec. 29 in the one-mile Eddie Logan Stakes on the turf.

In the Cal Derby, Yankee Bravo ($5.20) scored a one-length victory over Cafe Tortoni, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.57. Victory Pete was a head behind Cafe Tortoni.

Though he drew the No. 11 post, Yankee Bravo, who has little early speed, was able to get over to the rail quickly as he saved ground to the second turn.

"He was a little agitated the first sixteenth with stuff flying back at him, but after we went into the turn, he settled down," winning jockey Alex Solis said. "I just wanted to get him to the rail and get him to relax."

Last during a fairly slow 24.48-second opening quarter,

Yankee Bravo moved a little closer down the backstretch.

"It's easy when you ride this kind of horse," Solis said. "He can make several runs and is very professional."

Winning trainer Patrick Gallagher said he felt confident as Solis moved a little closer into contention down the backstretch.

"With his turn of foot, I knew he'd be in good position and could catch them even if he encountered a little trouble," Gallagher said.

In fact, Yankee Bravo met traffic heading to the quarter pole and steadied slightly as Solis awaited an opening. As soon as one appeared, Solis asked Yankee Bravo, who responded with a quick move to get into the clear and a strong run through the lane, wearing down Victory Pete, who had been part of the pace battle, and Cafe Tortoni.

"At this point, he's still a baby, but he has a lot of class. He's very special," Solis said.

"I'll go with what Alex says about him," said Gallagher, who has nominated Yankee Bravo to the Triple Crown as well as the Santa Anita Derby.

The victory, worth, $90,000, lifts Yankee Bravo's career earnings to $147,920.