California Chrome, the 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) hero, returns to action in Saturday’s $200,000 San Pasqual S. (G2) at Santa Anita. The 1 1/16-mile contest has a scheduled post time of 7:03 p.m. (EST), and you can watch (and wager) at TwinSpires.com.
The rags-to-riches California-bred has had quite an odyssey since his Kentucky Derby-winning campaign. Honored as the 2014 Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old colt after capturing two-thirds of American racing’s coveted Triple Crown, and finishing a near-miss third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), California Chrome raced just twice in early 2015. He made his 4-year-old debut in the San Antonio Invitational (G2) at Santa Anita, where he was easily second best behind another champion in Shared Belief.
California Chrome then took off on a foreign adventure. The popular chestnut traveled to the Middle East for the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 28, and ran well to take second. From there, “Chrome” went straight to England for a tilt at the Prince of Wales’s S. (G1) at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting in June. Unfortunately, he had to be withdrawn due to a bruised hoof. Chrome subsequently flew to Chicago in hopes of making the Arlington Million (G1), only to be ruled out for the rest of the year with bone bruising.
Chrome enjoyed a period of rest and relaxation in the Kentucky Bluegrass at Taylor Made Farm, his future home at stud. Last summer, Taylor Made purchased the share in Chrome originally held by co-owner/breeder Steve Coburn. Fellow co-owner/breeder Perry Martin remains in the partnership, which is now dubbed “California Chrome LLC.”
When returning to trainer Art Sherman’s barn at Los Alamitos in Southern California in October, Chrome looked magnificent. He’d put on weight over his vacation, but unlike most of us, he needed to regain weight he’d lost with all of his international travel.
Now a bigger, stronger, more mature Chrome just needed to regain his fitness, sharpness, and competitive edge. He appears to have done so with a series of works, culminating in a brilliant six-furlong move in 1:10.04 at Santa Anita last Saturday.
Regular rider Victor Espinoza, aboard for his last couple of workouts, will be back in the saddle as Chrome breaks from post 4 in the San Pasqual. Heavily favored at 4-5 on the morning line, he has seven opponents.
Old foe Hoppertunity, who was second to Chrome in the 2014 Santa Anita Derby (G1), is the defending champion of the San Pasqual. From the barn of American Pharoah’s trainer Bob Baffert, Hoppertunity was most recently second when trying to repeat in the Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs. He thereby rates as the 5-2 second choice.
Hard Aces, sixth behind 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the October 31 Breeders’ Cup Classic, previously edged Hoppertunity in last June’s Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1). Two other contenders, Imperative and Point Piper, have recently finished second to Dortmund (the third-placer to stablemate American Pharoah in the Derby). Grade 2 veteran Blingo, and likely pacesetters Mystery Train and Alfa Bird, round out the field.
Finally, if you’re looking for Chrome’s familiar purple and green silks, you won’t find them. The Martin/Taylor Made partnership has new silver silks (as modeled by Espinoza in the picture above).
Chrome is using the San Pasqual as a prep on the way to another attempt at Dubai. Should he prevail in the desert on March 26, he would emulate past Derby winners Silver Charm and Animal Kingdom who went on to triumph in the Dubai World Cup.
Photo of California Chrome courtesy of Benoit.
Photo of Victor Espinoza in the new silks courtesy of Santa Anita via Twitter.