July 31, 2021

Zakaroff posts 48-1 stunner in El Camino Real Derby

Zakaroff found a seam entering the stretch and closed best of all to record a massive upset in Saturday’s $245,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields, paying nearly $100 to win the Kentucky Derby qualifier on a Tapeta track. However, Zakaroff is not Triple Crown-eligible and will need to be a late nominee ($6,000 fee due by March 20) to receive the 10-point prize.

Kyle Frey had the mount on the Steve Specht-trained gelding, who was easily the longest shot among seven runners at 48-1 and returned $99.60 for a $2 win wager.

By Slew’s Tiznow, Zakaroff scored by a half-length and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.34. He’s made all six career starts on the Tapeta, breaking his maiden the third time out in late November. The bay Kentucky-bred followed with a runner-up in an entry-level allowance/optional claimer a month later and was exiting a fifth in his stakes debut, the January 21 California Derby.

Ann Arbor Eddie led the way into the first turn but was quickly joined by Tribal Storm, who edged forward after an opening quarter-mile in :23.95 to establish fractions in :49.03 and 1:13.96. Zakaroff saved ground from his innermost post, never far behind but toward the back of the pack as the field made its way down the backstretch.

Zakaroff edged closer rounding the far turn as Ann Arbor Eddie advanced to take a short lead into the stretch with Tribal Storm still fighting gamely to his outside. Frey guided his mount off the rail after turning for home, swinging three wide, and Zakaroff drove into contention to the outside of the front-runners and surged to win in deep stretch.

Ann Arbor Eddie began to tire in the final furlong and the even-money favorite drifted out, impeding the path of Tribal Storm, who weakened to fourth after being steadied. The stewards flashed the inquiry sign immediately after the finish and eventually ruled Ann Arbor Eddie cost Tribal Storm a placing, disqualifying and placing him fourth.

More Power to Him, the 9-2 third choice, was elevated to second after closing belatedly for third under the wire. Tribal Storm wound up being placed third at 10-1. The top three are all not nominated to the Triple Crown. Sheer Flattery, the 7-5 morning line favorite, raced just behind the early leaders before retreating to last in the stretch as the 5-2 second choice.

Owned by Antone Metaxas, Zakaroff was bred by Eagle Ridge Racing and sold for $25,000 as a yearling at the Barretts’ October sale. He’s out of the winning Mr. Greeley mare Grand Advice.

The El Camino Real Derby is the first of two synthetic races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series along with the Spiral (G3) at Turfway on Match 25.

El Camino Real Derby Quotes:

Steve Specht: “They didn’t give me much credit even though I didn’t finish that far behind some of these horses the last two times. I really thought this race was too far, that 1 mile or 1 1/16 miles was his limit. When he got to the stretch he showed a little extra that I didn’t think he had. I actually entered him in a first-level allowance sprint but the race didn’t go so I got stuck running here. Not a bad stick. I wasn’t out of my league but somebody has to be favored and somebody has to not be. That last race he was inside all the way and when it rains the inside is the deepest part of the track. He was kind of spinning his wheels. He’s turned out to be a little better than I thought he was going to be.”

Kyle Frey: “I’m kind of star struck. I’ve never been on the horse before, a complete pick up mount. I think we picked it up at the draw if I’m not mistaken. Everything happens for a reason. So thank God. We sat uncomfortably and I honestly thought we were going to be sitting a little further off, but they were walking at the front, so we were kind of just sitting right there pretty comfortable. I just tried not to mess it up. Steve did all the work. With how easy the fractions were and how calm the horse was. We were able to get out so smoothly and swiftly right at the perfect time. I almost thought I might have caught Ann Arbor sleeping, but when we got up to him our momentum was really moving and we got there.”