California Chrome got down to the business of training for the Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap on July 23 with his first trip to the Del Mar track early Thursday morning.
And, in the course of that, admirably performed the side duties of equine media star that come with being the all-time leading money-winner and No. 1 ranked active runner in North America.
Under exercise rider Dihigi Gladney, California Chrome went to the track at 5:45 a.m. with a contingent of local San Diego TV station crews in tow. The career winner of $12,532,650, the bulk of it via a win in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March, entered at the gap at the six-furlong chute on the backstretch, “backtracked” past the finish line, turned and galloped 1 ¾ miles around the oval before being returned to the stable of trainer Art Sherman.
“He looks super,” Sherman said.
“He was fresh,” Gladney said, an encouraging statement to his large loyal fan base, dubbed “Chromies,” wondering about how the champion has withstood the rigors of the more than 16,000-mile round trip from California to Dubai and back. The San Diego will mark California Chrome’s first start since the overseas triumph and is the first of five planned starts – the first two here at Del Mar – before the 5-year-old California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit will likely be retired.
California Chrome travelled from Los Alamitos to Del Mar Wednesday, arriving in the early afternoon. “He came off the van walking on his hind legs,” Gladney said. “I thought ‘Here we go, it’s Dubai all over again.”
Following the exercise, California Chrome was washed and cooled out while cameras rolled providing live feeds or tape for later use. Upon being returned to his stall, California Chrome put his head out over the webbing and whinnied for those who might want audio.
“He loves it when there’s a crowd around like this, but when he’s on the track he stays focused,” Gladney said. “Nothing bothers him, nothing spooks him.
Another trip to the track, under quieter circumstances Friday morning will set California Chrome up for his final serious work Saturday before the San Diego. He’s scheduled to work five furlongs, probably with Gladney in the irons, in a time frame starting at 7:45 a.m. when the track will be open only to California Chrome and other San Diego Handicap horses. Weights for the San Diego will be announced Sunday.
SHE’S NOT HERE IS HERE TO DEFEND YELLOW RIBBON TITLE
She’s Not Here, a half-length winner of the Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap when it was staged in the final weekend of Del Mar’s 2015 summer meeting, will attempt to defend her title Saturday in the $200,000 event that kicks off the first weekend of 2016.
A 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry, She’s Not Here notched two wins at Del Mar last summer, half of her career victory total on grass in 14 starts on the surface at a variety of tracks. Her only other Del Mar start was an eighth-place result from the outside post in a 14-horse field in the Grade I Matriarch on the closing day (November 29) of the 2015 Bing Crosby fall meeting.
Ridden by Mike Smith last year, She’s Not Here will break from the No. 8 post under Drayden Van Dyke in a field of nine in the 1 1/16 mile turf race which goes as the ninth on a 10-race card.
The field from the rail out: Fresh Feline (Victor Espinoza, 12-1), Nancy From Nairobi (Mike Smith, 3-1), Her Emmynency (Tyler Baze, 6-1), Prize Exhibit (Santiago Gonzalez, 12-1), Majestic Heat (Flavien Prat, 4-1), Finest City (Kent Desormeaux, 7-2), Queen of the Sand (Mario Gutierrez, 6-1), She’s Not Here (Drayden Van Dyke, 12-1) and Keri Belle (Gary Stevens, 8-1).
VYJACK FAVORED IN FIELD OF SEVEN FOR WICKERR STAKES
Vyjack, a $1 million-plus career earner new to the stable of trainer Phil D’Amato, drew the No. 6 post and was established as the 2-1 favorite on oddsmaker Russ Hudak’s morning line for Saturday’s $75,000 Wickerr Stakes.
A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelded son of Into Mischief, Vyjack has career earnings of $1,161,900 on seven wins and 13 in-the-money finishes in 25 starts. He was second in the Grade III Red Bank Stakes Monmouth Park in New Jersey on June 5 for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott before being transferred to D’Amato’s stable.
“The owner (David Wilkenfeld of Pick Six Racing), wanted to try out California and is going to spend some time out here,” D’Amato said. “We’re pointing Vyjack for a Breeders’ Cup race in the fall.”
The Red Bank was the fourth Graded Stakes win for Vyjack, the previous coming in the Gotham and Jerome in 2013 and the 2014 Kelso Handicap.
Texas Ryano and Ohio, entered in the Wickerr, will be scratched in favor of Sunday’s Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes.
The field for the Wickerr, at one mile on turf, from the rail out: Toowindytohaulrox (Tiago Pereira, 10-1), Power Ped (Santiago Gonzalez, 12-1), Lieutenant Colonel (Martin Garcia, 6-1), Little Curlin (Martin Pedroza, 8-1), Forever Juanito (Agapito Delgadillo, 20-1), Vyjack (Flavien Prat, 2-1) and A Red Tie Day (Tyler Baze, 12-1).
NINE TO GO IN SUNDAY’S EDDIE READ
With the close of entries and post position draw still pending Thursday, a field of nine was anticipated for Sunday’s Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes.
In alphabetical order the group is: Ashleyluvssugar, Bolo, Finnegan’s Wake, Flamboyant, Patentar, Si Sage, Texas Ryano, Midnight Storm and Ohio.
CLOSERS – Nemoralia, third-place finisher in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year at Keeneland and runner-up in both the Frizette and Coronation Stakes, will ship in from Europe for the Grade I $300,000 Del Mar Oaks on August 20. The 3-year-old filly, trained by Jeremy Noseda, is to arrive around August 12 … Selected workouts from 95 officially timed Thursday on the main track: Drefong (4f, :49.20), Mrazek (4f, :49.80), American Cleopatra (5f, 1:01.40), American Freedom (5f, :59.20).
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club