05/27/2014 1:43PM

California Chrome measures up with recent heroes

Barbara D. Livingston
Smarty Jones, winning the 2004 Kentucky Derby, had a similar running style to fellow dual-classic winner California Chrome.

We have known since that final night at Hollywood Park that California Chrome had the instant acceleration that has been winning major races forever. We knew California Chrome was fast enough to win classic races when he got Beyers of 108 and 107 in the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby. We found out in the Preakness that California Chrome is tough, with multiple gears, first fighting off that early turn move by Social Inclusion and then holding firm against a serious stretch charge by Ride On Curlin. We shall find out on June 7 if California Chrome is legendary.

I find this colt irresistible. He fits how I think and how I bet. I absolutely love horses with early speed that can make large fields into small fields, that don’t fall into good position, but run into good position. None of these “perfect’’ trips are happening by accident. Victor Espinoza knows exactly what he has and uses just enough of it at the start of races to make the finishes of the races academic.
When I think of comparisons to top 3-year-olds of the 21st century, I think first of Smarty Jones. Stylistically, Smarty and California Chrome have a lot in common. During their respective long winning streaks, their trips, because of their speed, generally were uncomplicated.

And when Social Inclusion made it “complicated,’’ as Espinoza so eloquently termed it after the Preakness, California Chrome brushed it off, ran away from the threat and won the race at the quarter pole.

The final half-mile of the Preakness reminded me of why I was so enamored of Point Given before the 2001 Kentucky Derby that I really thought he was going to win the Triple Crown. He was a horse that could make one move to get the lead and another in the stretch to hold it. Those are the champions.
So I see some Smarty Jones and Point Given in California Chrome. Those were two horses that could and maybe should have won the Triple Crown. Horse-racing circumstance got them as it has gotten so many other horses in so many races.

Those two maybe had a more impressive set of Beyers than California Chrome, but Chrome has an even better “move’’ than either of them.

Point Given’s 3-year-old figures were 105 (San Felipe), 110 Santa Anita Derby, 99 (Kentucky Derby when fifth), 111 (Preakness), 114 (Belmont), 106 (Haskell) and 117 (Travers).

Smarty’s 3-year-old figures were 97 (Count Fleet), 95 (Southwest), 112 (Rebel), 109 (Arkansas Derby), 107 (Kentucky Derby), 118 (Preakness) and 100 (Belmont).

When I watch California Chrome accelerate at the quarter pole, I keep seeing those European grass horses that come over here every year for the Breeders’ Cup and blow by the Americans in the stretch like they are tied to a post. I do not remember a recent American dirt horse with this kind of instant acceleration, at least not in six consecutive races.

That speed/acceleration combination is what makes California Chrome so unique. Horses often have one, but not the other. Smarty had the speed and solid acceleration, especially in the Preakness. Point Given had the acceleration to blow races apart at any stage, but he was not a horse that generally raced near the lead.

When you have speed, acceleration and the ability to relax, you have something very special. That is California Chrome. I thought he was a cinch in the Derby for all those reasons. The only thing that concerned me in the Preakness was the possibility he would get pinned near the rail and be uncomfortable. That thought went away in the first 50 yards when he broke so well and got such great position.

If Social Inclusion does not run in the Belmont (and he should not run in the Belmont), I can see a scenario where California Chrome is loose on an easy lead or, at least, stalking in moderate fractions.
At some point, Espinoza will have a decision to make. Does he do what Gary Stevens did on Point Given in the 2001 Belmont, just open up on the turn and blow the field away, running the pursuers so dizzy that, even if Chrome starts to tire, they are too tired to chase and have no chance to catch up.
Or does he wait until the quarter pole again, after Chrome has run the Derby distance and ask him to run away from the field, hoping that same burst is there after the colt has run as far as he has ever run before.

It is an interesting dilemma, but you can only have it if you are riding a horse with the talent that potentially gives you those options. Espinoza definitely is riding that kind of horse, a 3-year-old colt that is a Belmont Stakes win from being a forever horse.

Marc Done More than 1 year ago
If CC wins the Belmont I think he should go to Haskell, Travers and then retire. But I would always miss seeing the champ racing again. It is a dilemma of money/security versus the pleasure of seeing that final burst of speed that show that he is the horse that can!
Mary Ann Donahue More than 1 year ago
Absolutely love the end of your last sentence Mr. Jeradi, "a 3-year-old colt that is a Belmont Stakes win from being a forever horse." Like many, I hope CC becomes a forever horse on June 7, 2014.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't like his last work. Too fast. California Chrome works a half-mile in 47.41 seconds He is going 1-1/2 miles. A little more than he is used to. Remember Wise Dan's last race where he went just a tad further than he is used to. 1-1/8 His workout before going longer was a 3 fur bullet work out. He was way to raring to go early and it almost cost him at the end. Looked rank at the beginning. I hope not..Hope I am wrong. Could it happen here?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
comparing chrome to smarty ?? smarty was undefeated going into the belmont. smarty did not use lasix until the derby. how big of a disadvantage is it to run without lasix ?? should we add 6 beyer points for his prep races ? the 2004 derby field had 26 races with at least a 100 beyer. this years field had 7. the top two finishers in breeders cup juvy were in the derby. where were all of the two year old stars in this years derby ? smarty jones had to run against the 2nd and 3rd place finishers of the derby in the preakness. can we compare smarty's 118 beyer in the preakness to this years ? no we cant. can we compare the derby beyers ? no we cant. apparently, some people didnt see that social inclusion was visibly worn out before the race even started. just tell it like it really is.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
funny lt feel like deja vou all over again. did anyone in their right mind think big brown would lose? no he looked like a lead pipe cinch. but for some strange reason it happened he got trashed, no horse with the first 2 legs ever look like as he couldnt lose but he did. strange things happen at big sandy in the belmont. cc looks the same,how can he lose?? but he will. the gods are unkind and wil be at work next sat
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Didn't think BB would finish, and he didn't. Roid meltdown? Just imo, I think the racing gods like Chrome..
Marc Done More than 1 year ago
No, CC won't lose. How many times have you been right in your predictions? How much did you loose? You don't even remember, but this time in the Belmont the gods will be rooting for Chrome and you'll be wrong. Just put your money where your mind is.
j More than 1 year ago
I can cite some points that most naysayers are trying to ignore: CALIFORNIA CHROME IS A SPECIAL HORSE. One can feel that, winning 6 stakes in a row, plus 2 non stakes races totaling 8 victories, including the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes does not get accomplished by chance or luck or by any common horse. He has proven to be really good and show that he can defeat the crop of 3yo AND NOT BREAK A SWEET. Here he goes to the Belmont, to run 2 furlongs longer than the KD. This horse has been training for 2 miles, EVERY DAY, even in race days he goes for his gallop in 2 miles. This is a healthy and sound horse, that the trainer, assistant trainer and exercise guy are stating the horse having come out of the 2 last races not showing any sign of tiredness or exhaustion, not even heavy breathing. Who is better prepared for the distance than him? He will have to beat horses that already were beaten by him, plus some unqualified ones that insist in be in the Belmont. If one talks about pedigree, than he got to go farther than the grandfather and see that in both lines CC has the best speed and stamina lines a horse can have. What about the competition? Were did they get the stamina or speed to prevail if they were already beaten before by CC? Oh yes, they have excuses for not racing like a champ. The 2 runner ups are also 1 1/8 mile horses that never went to 1 1/2 miles and were beaten before, convincingly, with Espinoza not wanting to race CC farther than necessary. Conclusion, CC is the most qualified horse to take home the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown, and he will get it, despite all the envy.
Marc Done More than 1 year ago
All horses in the KD came from running 1 1/8 and couldn't get to 1 1/4. The only one was CCurve, even though, CC kept him at bay while slowing down almost to a stop, so stupid Espinoza could commemorate. Tonalist and company are in the same bucket of winners and losers up to 1 1/8. One can see in the 1 3/16 of the Preakness, SI almost sat in the track to get his breath back and ROC dared to waist his stamina trying to kiss CC *a&&, which had the race won and the jock was just sitting there, smelling CC mane, to see if he had bathe before the race, and this had to be accomplished before crossing the finish line. And there we go to the Belmont, CC the winner of 2 TC races being put down b a bunch of "horse race addicts" that can't take a profit of 50% in 2 minutes, and rather lose all rent money in a 17-1 that has chances of making the show, at best, but the greed makes them play winner, and making predictions like this horse will, that horse can, etc. I say thanks to them for betting gexotics and let odds come to 3-2. Meanwhile, please put your money where your mind direct you.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
dont worry,the racing gods wont let it happen, cc is a real nice horse but to mention him in the same sentence as big red,slew,and affirmed,like they say in bklyn fahgettaboutit. something always happens to foil the mediocre, (real quiet,gary stevens,)(war emblem just not good enough,owned by a saudi),(smarty jones jerry bailey)(charismatic,antley choked)(big brown,a stoned desourmeoux)(ill have another,quarantine)you'll see the gods have awoken and get ready for the strange
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
Hey Genius.... Jerry Bailey didn't ride Smarty Jones!!!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Hay, Einstein, watch the race, Bailey rode that little red cowboy into defeat.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
since you called me genius,watch the race bailey made a sucker out of a second rate rider elliot,elliot, he paniced and moved too soon costing smarty any shot,just another way the gods have of spoiling a ppretender from claiming the biggest prize in racing
Christopher Olson More than 1 year ago
There is a horse going for the Triple Crown in a week and I'm sure that this site is getting much more casual fan traffic than normal. Wouldn't it make sense to open some additional article and columns? 46 out of the 57 articles/columns are locked to non-members on the main page. And of this ones that are unlocked this is the only one that has anything interesting about the Belmont. DRF - Way to support the sport!
Mary Ann Donahue More than 1 year ago
DRF is probably trying to get some of these more casual fans to subscribe to DRF+. I think DRF's main goal is to make money, not encourage casual fans. Not saying this is right or wrong, just that it's business first.
Susan bell More than 1 year ago
Food for thought...if CC wins the triple crown do you keep racing the first TC winner in 36 years and take a chance he breaks down OR do you retire him. Though we the spectators want to see him run, the owners will have to consider the risk. If he doesn't win and is sound he will keep running. The point? There is a bright side to him not winning the TC.
Ed Greenberger More than 1 year ago
Susan... I think they would get him into the breeding shed quicker than you can say, "And they're off!"
Jason Hart More than 1 year ago
I honestly don't think these owners care about the money they could make breeding him. They've turned down absurd amounts of money for this colt, shares of this colt, and the mare. It seems like they are in it for the fun of it. It's great food for thought though. If he were mine, I'd consider retiring him.
Susan bell More than 1 year ago
I agree. I was thinking in terms of keeping him alive whether he breeds or not. I think I would be afraid something would happen to him myself and would retire him.