Making the Derby now is all about the points.
In the Kentucky Derby's new formula for the starting gate, winning Saturday's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley is worth as much as the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
That has brought some out-of-towners to Northern California's stepping stone to the Triple Crown, including two starters trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert.
With Jim Kozimor as host, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area will telecast the 1 1 / 8-mile race live. Post time is 4:40 p.m.
Under the new format, the top four finishers will receive Derby points, with 10 to the winner. Come the first Saturday in May, the top 20 point earners will get a slot in the Churchill Downs starting gate.
Three dozen stakes - including two overseas - are part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points system. The El Camino Real is the lone Northern California race with points.
In previous runnings, the Kentucky Derby field was determined by graded stakes earnings. After a poll showed 83 percent of the public did not understand how Derby starters got picked, Churchill Downs opted for the new system, which awards 100 points for wins in April's major preps such as the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial.
With a stable packed with 3-year-olds, Baffert sends north lightly raced Manando, the morning-line favorite, and Carving, who is co-owned by Baffert's wife, Jill, and champion skier Bode Miller. Baffert won the 1996 El Camino Real with Cavonnier, who went on to win the Santa Anita Derby and finished second in the Kentucky Derby.
Also coming from Southern California are Carla Gaines' Counting Days and Paddy Gallagher's Dice Flavor.
Defending their home Tapeta track, Hall of Famers Jerry Hollendorfer and Russell Baze team up with Zeewat. It's a potent combination. Hollendorfer has trained five El Camino Real winners; jockey Baze has won this stakes eight times.
Co-owned by Hollendorfer and Dr. George Todaro, Zeewat comes off three consecutive stakes victories, including the California Derby.
"It looks like there's quite a bit of speed in the race, but our horse has speed, too, so if someone tries to steal it, we can go up there and make sure the pace is legitimate," Hollendorfer said. "The horse continues to train very well. He had a nice workout Tuesday (four furlongs in 49 2 / 5 seconds), so we're all set."
Right now, the El Camino Real is Zeewat's goal, he added. "I'm not looking past this race."
Completing the field are Cal Derby runner-up Wildcat Moon, Rush In, Nina's Dragon and North Pacific.
EL CAMINO REAL DERBY
What: 1 1 / 8-mile race
Where: Golden Gate Fields, Albany
TV: CSNBA, 4 p.m.