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Jan 15, 2010

California road to Louisville starts in the north


Albany, CA (Sports Network) - With the start of the new year thoughts turn toward three-year-old thoroughbreds and their possible running in the Kentucky Derby.

The spotlight shines this weekend on California based three-year-olds with the running of the California Derby and the San Rafael Stakes. Both races have a purse of $100,000 with Golden Gate Fields hosting the former and Santa Anita the site of the latter.

The California Derby will be run at the distance of 1 1/16 miles on the track's synthetic surface. The San Rafael will also be contested on an artificial track at a flat mile.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has prepared for the California Derby the undefeated Connemara. Connemara has drawn post two in the six horse field with local champion Russell Baze in the saddle.

Connemara is owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor. The chestnut colt has won both starts and has shown an off the pace running style that usually fits well with the Run for the Roses.

The colt's first start was at Turfway Park in October when he won by five lengths at odds of 7-2 over one mile. Connemara won his second start in November at Santa Anita as the 7-10 favorite versus five rivals.

Breaking from the inside post will be local runner Our Minesweeper with jockey Frank Alvarado. Trained by Michael Lenzini, Our Minesweeper owns a pair of stakes victories among his three wins in six starts.

The gelding won the six furlong Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes at Santa Rosa in August and a month later took the one mile Bart Heller Stakes at Golden Gate. After finishing fourth in both the Jack Goodman and Golden Nugget Stakes, Our Minesweeper finished second in the Gold Rush Stakes.

Here is the complete field for the California Derby in post position order: Our Minesweeper, Alvarado; Connemara, Russell Baze; Thomas Baines, Michael Baze; Cahill Country, Inoel Beato; Ranger Heartley, J. Garcia and Shudacudawudya, Francisco Duran.

Veteran trainer John Sadler has two horses entered in the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita. Domonation and Via Verde will race uncoupled in the one mile event.

Owned by Joy Ride Racing and La Cresta Farm, Domonation is coming off a second place finish in the Stuka Stakes at Hollywood Park last month. The gray colt will be ridden by Joel Rosario from post two.

In his four starts as a two-year-old Domonation earned $51,020 with two runners-up results to go along with his maiden victory. He also likes to come from off the pace.

Via Verde will break from the outside post in the five horse field. Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Via Verde will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano.

The three-year-old has one win and two second place finishes in four starts for $46,457. Last month in the Eddie Logan Stakes on the grass Via Verde was fourth to Macias.

Here is the field for the San Rafael in post position order: Cardiff Giant, Victor Espinoza; Domonation, Rosario; Conveyance, Garrett Gomez, Lucky Rave, Alex Solis and Via Verde, Rafael Bejarano.

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