ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 9, 2016)—Idle since March 28 in Dubai, 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome came back running on Saturday at Santa Anita, as he forged to a 1 ¼ length win in the Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes. Trained by Art Sherman and ridden by Victor Espinoza, the 5-year-old California-bred horse by Lucky Pulpit covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.39.
Breaking from post position four in a field of seven older horses, California Chrome utilized his natural speed to sit a comfortable second behind pacesetter Alfa Bird into and around the Club House turn. Well in hand under Espinoza, “Chrome” cruised to the lead under a hold approaching the quarter pole and kept runner-up Imperative at bay the final sixteenth.
“He could’ve opened up turning for home, but Victor put the Full-Nelson on him,” quipped Sherman. “It was just what we needed. He’ll get a lot out of this race, believe me. It set up just as we figured. I knew he’d show speed. He’s been wanting to run quite a bit right now…and I said ‘He’s got a lot of gas (speed) himself and you can place him where you want.
“That’s why he’s a perfect horse. You don’t have to bring a game plan with him. He can sit off the pace or go on the pace.”
Sherman said that California Chrome, who picked up $2 million for running second in last year’s Dubai World Cup, would be heading back to the Middle East later this month.
“He’ll ship Jan. 21, have one prep (in Dubai), then come home after the World Cup,” he said. “It’s very heart-warming to see his fans and the reception he received. I was just jammed full of people around the paddock. It was just great.”
Off at 3-5, California Chrome paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10. A winner of four Grade I stakes in 2014; the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Hollywood Derby, California Chrome notched his 10th win from 19 starts Saturday, and with the winner’s share of $120,000, increased his career earnings to $6,442,650, thus surpassing two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow to become the leading California-bred of all time. (North America’s all-time leader Curlin, retired with earnings of $10,501,800, while California Chrome currently ranks 25th).
Bred and originally owned by Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome is now owned by California Chrome, LLC, which is comprised of Kentucky-based Taylor Made Stallions and Martin, who retains his majority 70 percent stake in the horse.
“We feel blessed to be a part of this, what a horse!” said new co-owner Frank Taylor. “He’s so sound and so genuine. He’s a special horse.”
Assistant trainer Alan Sherman, who watched the race from the Winner’s Circle while holding his two year old grandson, was satisfied with his stable superstar.
“He got tired, but that was good,” he said. “He got tired, but he got it done. It’s just so much fun, it was awesome.”
Trained by Richard Baltas and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Imperative rallied from mid-pack and made the winner work late, while finishing one length in front of Hoppertunity. Off at 7-1, Imperative paid $5.80 and $3.00.
“I’m very proud of the horse,” said Baltas. “It looked like we might get to him there at the top of the stretch, but ‘Chrome’ was ready.”
Bob Baffert’s multiple graded stakes winning Hoppertunity, who came off a big second in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 27, appeared full of run at the rail heading to the far turn, finished well but was unable to threaten the winner as he finished 3 ½ lengths clear of Hard Aces.
The second choice with Martin Garcia at 2-1, Hoppertunity paid $2.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 24.82, 49.12, 1:12.90 and 1:36.96.
Santa Anita will offer a nine-race card on Sunday, with first post time at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.
VICTOR ESPINOZA, CALIFORNIA CHROME, WINNER: “I wanted to make sure to let him run a little bit down the lane, so he doesn’t create any (new) bad habits.
“The way Chrome ran today is how he ran before. He’s one of the best horses I’ve ever been on. I am so proud of him, the way he ran today. As a stallion for next year, I think he’ll be one of the best.
“I don’t think he got too tired. For such a long time off I think it was a good race, I expected him to be more tired than he was.
“The slow pace didn’t surprise me. I slowed down on the first turn to let Alfa Bird go. If I went fast, I knew that would make (Alfa Bird) go faster as well and it’s his first race back. He’s had so much time off and I didn’t want to burn him too much, I wanted to go easy on him today.
“Today is what I wanted. I didn’t want to override him, I didn’t want to push him. I wanted a balance.
“American Pharoah and California Chrome are too hard to compare, I won’t”
MARIO GUTIERREZ, IMPERATIVE, SECOND: “I got the opportunity to start riding him, and every time I work him or ride him, he gives me his all. He gives me everything, and he has a good heart. It’s tough luck, but we lost to a champion. It’s a small field, and we didn’t want to be too far behind, but I couldn’t go to the lead, either. I tried to find the perfect place without asking him too much, and the race unfolded perfectly for us. We just got out-run in the end.”
ART SHERMAN, CALIFORNIA CHROME, WINNER: “It set up just as we figured. I knew he’d show speed. He’s been wanting to run quite a bit right now by watching his workouts, and I said, ‘He’s got a lot of gas (speed) himself and you can place him where you want. That’s why he’s a perfect horse. You don’t have to bring a game plan with him. He can sit off the pace or go on the pace.
“Right now I think, Wow! Maybe the Dubai World Cup ($10 million March 26). That would be my greatest thrill. He’ll ship January 21, have one prep, then come home after the World Cup.
“He could’ve opened up turning for home, but Victor put the full-Nelson on him. It was just what we needed. He’ll get a lot out of this race, believe me.
“It’s very heart-warming to see his fans and the reception he received. It was just jammed full of people around the paddock. It was just great.”
PERRY MARTIN, CO-OWNER, CALIFORNIA CHROME, WINNER: “I think he ran perfect. I missed Dortmund in there. We would have got a lot more out of this race if he was in there, he’s a real competitor.
“We now have the leading, money earning Cal-bred ever, he surpassed Tiznow with this win. I have an intuition he will surpass Tiznow in the breeding shed as well.
“We’re going to Dubai, I’m adamant. After the race today, I think we need two. I’d like to see him run at a mile and an eighth and then a mile and a quarter prior to running in the World Cup (March 26) and I’ll think that’ll have him 100%.
“I believe California Chrome will leave for Dubai on Jan. 21st.
“California Chrome seemed to struggle a little bit at the end, I thought. It looked as though he was getting a little tired which is why I think we need two in Dubai. I’ll talk to the trainer and we’ll decide.
“I’m own the majority of the horse, so I believe I make the decisions. Until somebody tells me different.”
FRANK TAYLOR, CO-OWNER, CALIFORNIA CHROME, WINNER: “We feel blessed to be a part of this, what a horse! He’s so sound and so genuine. He’s a special, special horse.”
RICHARD BALTAS, IMPERATIVE, SECOND: “He ran great. I’m very proud of the horse. It looked like we might get to him there at the top of the stretch, but Chrome was ready.”
NOTES: Sherman said California Chrome would leave Santa Anita Sunday morning at 10 o’clock for his home base at Los Alamitos. The winning owners are Perry Martin and Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Stallions in Nicholasville, KY, racing as California Chrome, LLC.
Source: Santa Anita Park