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California Chrome clocks half-mile in final move for Derby 140

  • California Chrome (Photo courtesy of Los Alamitos Facebook)

With Victor Espinoza aboard, Santa Anita Derby hero California Chrome worked a half-mile Saturday morning at Los Alamitos Racecourse in :48 1/5, his final move in preparation for next Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

The early favorite for next Saturday's Derby at Churchill Downs, California Chrome worked to the satisfaction of trainer Art Sherman on Saturday, who oversaw the move from the Los Alamitos grandstand. The Lucky Pulpit chestnut is scheduled to ship to Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday.

"It was a great work," Sherman said. "He galloped out (five furlongs) in 1:01. Everything's looking good. I'm happy.

"He'll leave here to go to Ontario (International Airport) Monday morning at 1:45 a.m. (PDT). The flight leaves at 3:30, but I'll leave later, at 8 a.m."

Sherman said that his son, Alan, a former jockey who assists him at Los Alamitos and regular exercise rider Willie Delgado will arrive at Churchill Downs on Sunday.

"They'll get everything ready and he'll stay at Tom Proctor's barn there. Everything looks good right now. It's all worked out nice," the horseman explained.

California Chrome overcame a sluggish start to dominate the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby on April 5, taking the lead going to the far turn and drawing off under Espinoza to win by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:47.52. A 7 1/5-length winner of the San Felipe Stakes two starts back on March 8, the horse that many are comparing to the legendary Swaps has won his last four races, all stakes, by a combined 24 1/4 lengths.

"He's the kind of horse you dream about," said Sherman, who, at age 18, accompanied the California-bred Swaps to Louisville as his regular exercise rider leading into his win in the 1955 Kentucky Derby. "Swaps had the same demeanor this horse has. Nothing bothered Swaps and he was a runner. You just have to hope for the best."

When asked what sort of training regimen he had planned for California Chrome when he arrives in Louisville, Sherman indicated that all serious preparations have been made.

"I think all I'll do is school him, take him through the paddock and take him to the gate quite a bit," he said. "That's been my thing with him, he gets anxious in the gate. He schools great in the mornings and then in the afternoons...he knows he's got to come away from there running so we have to school him."

Espinoza, who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby with front-running War Emblem, is undefeated aboard California Chrome, orchestrating his last four stakes wins with the invaluable perspective of a jockey who's "been there and done that."

"It was an excellent work," Espinoza stated. "He went slower today because the track is just a little bit slow (due to overnight showers). He always breaks off fast and I slowed him down today, Art didn't want me to go too fast. He wanted it nice and easy and gallop out nice.

"Every time I come here (Los Alamitos), he looks different. He's bigger, stronger. It's amazing how much they can change from one week to the next, it's unbelievable."

California Chrome is owned by his breeders, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, and is out of the Not for Love mare Love the Chase. Coincidentally, Saturday's half-mile work coincided with the second-place finish he recorded in his racing debut at Hollywood Park one year ago. The sophomore has since won six races from 10 total starts and has amassed earnings of $1,134,850.

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California Chrome is attempting to become only the fourth California-bred, Kentucky Derby winner in history and the first since Decidedly in 1962.