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California Chrome Sets Track Record in Winter Challenge Romping

Bailey Gallison

CYPRESS, Calif. – California Chrome put on a show in his final start in California at the track where he has trained since January, 2014 in the $180,000 Winter Challenge Saturday at Los Alamitos.

The overwhelming 1-20 favorite in his final race in California, the 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit cruised past nine outclassed rivals in his prep for an anticipated rematch with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park.

Outrun early after breaking from the outside in the field of 10, California Chrome was kept in the clear and extremely wide by jockey Victor Espinoza, wanting to avoid any possible traffic problems.

Fifth after the opening half-mile, the 2014 Horse of the Year and world’s richest active thoroughbred moved up to join the leaders without urging, swept to the lead with about 2 ½ furlongs to run. From there, it was just a matter of what the margin of victory and the final time for the 1 1/16 miles would be.

California Chrome’s 16th win in 26 starts saw him finish a dozen lengths in front of 21-1 second choice Point Piper. He stopped the clock in a track record 1:40.03, breaking the old mark of 1:40.82 set by Uncle Lino April 30 in – ironically – the California Chrome Stakes.

Trained by Art Sherman for Taylor Made Farm and co-breeder Perry Martin, California Chrome paid $2.10 in a race that featured only win wagering. The $50,000 payday pushed his earnings to $14,502,652.

“I was pretty nervous before the race,’’ said Sherman amidst a throng near the winner’s circle. “You know your horse is better than the others running in the race, but it is a horse race and anything can happen. (Espinoza) rode him with a lot of confidence.

“You could see he was much the best. I told Victor keep him in the clear and don’t get him in any trouble. He rode him like he was about 10 lengths the best horse. It was just perfect.

“Now I can relax and get ready for the Pegasus. I want Arrogate bad. I have something in my heart that says Chrome can beat him.

“The atmosphere here was just wonderful. It did my heart really good to be able to see him run in front of Orange County people. They are such loyal fans. This was a great day for racing. You can see what happens when you have a star.

“Let’s hope he pulled up well. He looked fine when he came by. I know with his record he will be Older Horse of the Year, but I’m rooting for him to be Horse of the Year. That would be a great way for him to go out.’’

Espinoza was also pleased with how the race will set California Chrome up for his finale in Florida. California Chrome is scheduled to begin his stud career in Kentucky after he competes in the Pegasus World Cup.

“When I got on him today he was stronger and it really surprised me,’’ said Espinoza. “When that happens I have a lot of confidence.

“I played it by ear coming out of the gate and when I saw some horses inside of me go, I just decided to sit off them and keep him in the clear. He’s very tactical and doesn’t need the lead. It was just perfect.’’

Point Piper, who was an easy winner of the Grade III Longacres Mile Aug. 14 at Emerald Downs, banked $30,000 for finishing second while winding up 3 ¼ lengths in front of 98-1 shot Papacoolpapacool, who was making only his second career start on dirt. Papacoolpapacool, a 4-year-old Temple City gelding, earned $20,000. Ain’t Misbehavin collected $20,000 for finishing fourth and Avanti Bello, the third choice at 22-1, earned $15,000 for his fifth place effort. The remaining five – Presidentsky, Howdy, Wrightwood, Lucky J Lane and Unusual Meeting – in the field earned $10,000 apiece.

Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time for closing day of the Winter Thoroughbred meet is 12:30 p.m.

Jockey Quotes

VICTOR ESPINOZA (Winner, California Chrome): “When I got on him today he was stronger and it really surprised me. When that happens I have a lot of confidence. I played it by ear coming out of the gate and when I saw some horses inside of me go, I just decided to sit off them and keep him in the clear. He’s very tactical and doesn’t need the lead. It was perfect.’’

Trainer Quotes

ART SHERMAN (Winner, California Chrome): “I was pretty nervous before the race. You know your horse is better than the others running in the race, but it is a horse race and anything can happen. (Jockey) Victor (Espinoza) rode him with a lot of confidence. You could see he was much the best. I told Victopr keep him in the clear and don’t get him in any trouble. He rode him like he was about 10 lengths the best horse. It was just perfect. Now I can relax and get ready for the ($12 million) Pegasus (World Cup Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park). I want (Breeders’ Cup Classic winner) Arrogate bad. I have something in my heart that says Chrome can beat him. The atmosphere here was just wonderful. It did my heart really good to be able to run him in front of Orange County people. They are such loyal fans. This was a great day for racing. You can see what happens when you have a star. Let’s hope he pulled up well. He looked fine when he came by. I know with his record he will be Older Horse of the Year, but I’m rooting for him to be Horse of the Year. That would be a great way for him to go out.’’

RECORD MUTUEL POOLS IN MULTIPLE EXOTIC WAGERS

There were record mutuel pools in the Players’ Pick 5, the early and late Pick 4’s and the Pick Six Saturday, the next-to-last day of the Winter Thoroughbred meet at Los Alamitos.

Chasing a three-day Pick Six carryover of $308,191, bettors wagered $1,250,238 Saturday for a total pool of $1,558,329. Since thoroughbred racing returned in July, 2014, the previous high Pick Six pool – including carryover – was $612,408 Dec. 7, 2014.

After a sequence in which form prevailed – the largest priced winner was Tawny ($8.60) in the third race – the Pick Six paid $1,406.

The pool for the Players’ Pick 5, which has a low takeout rate of 14%, was $410,783, eclipsing the previous record of $370,539 May 1, 2016, closing day of the 12-day Spring season.

Even though the Pick 5 – a 50 cent minimum bet – returned a meet-low $1,558.45 Saturday, the average payoff through the first seven days is $51,661, including a record $265,806.10 Sunday, Dec. 11.

The pool for the early Pick 4 – offered on Races 2-5 – was $166,416, bettering $159,988 wagered Dec. 13, 2014. The late Pick 4, which was on races 6-9 Saturday, handled $597,105, shattering the previous high of $470,930 July 11, 2015.

Los Alamitos Race Course

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