Zeewat, a 3-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt, overcame a rough start and a wide trip to score in the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields Saturday. The race is the first prep on the road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) at the northern California track.
Harlan's Holiday was 2012's leading sire of 2-year-olds, including undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Shanghai Bobby, one of several sophomores expected to have an impact on this year's Triple Crown races.
Zeewat, ridden by Russell Baze, came from fourth in a field of seven to win the 1 1/16-mile race by a half-length over pacesetter Wildcat Moon, who turned right in front of him leaving the starting gate. The start forced Baze to take his mount back, ultimately going four wide on the final turn to make his move to the front. Zeewat finished the distance in 1:46.50.
Zeewat is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who he owns in partnership with George Todardo.
“I thought he proved himself to be a pretty good horse today,” said Hollendorfer. “He got pinched back at the start but the horse willingly ran up in between horses and then was laying fourth. And then when Russell made his run, he had to go wide. I was pleased with the way the horse handled himself.”
Zeewat earned his fourth win in six career starts and his second consecutive stakes victory following his win in the Gold Rush S. on Dec. 8.
He’s real calm,” said Baze. “When (Wildcat Moon) made a left turn (at the start), I checked my horse a little bit. He had to overcome the slow start and was wide on the second turn. I was pretty impressed with the way he finished up today. He waits for you to tell him what to do, and when you do, he does it.”
Hollendorfer said the next assignment for Zeewat, a Triple Crown nominee, will be the Grade 3 $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 16, at 1 1/8 miles, at Golden Gate Fields.
“I think he’ll go further,” continued Baze. “There’s no doubt in my mind. He’s got a nice way of moving. I’ve always liked the way he moves so efficiently over the ground.”
Zeewat, who cost $50,000 as a yearling at Keeneland's 2011 September sale, earned $60,000 for the California Derby victory and has made $177,700 in his six starts.