Updated on 07/26/2016 2:01PM

California Chrome outduels Dortmund in San Diego Handicap

Emily Shields
California Chrome, making his first start since March, narrowly defeats Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. - California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza were in a familiar place on the turn of Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. With three furlongs to go, California Chrome was running alongside the pacesetter and giving Espinoza positive vibes for the stretch run.

Back in March, in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, Espinoza was in a similar spot and chose a point in early stretch to urge California Chrome to the front. California Chrome drew off to win that race by 3 3/4 lengths.

In the San Diego, Espinoza made his move at the quarter pole against a capable leader in Dortmund. Espinoza had too much respect for his rival to wait for the stretch.

“That’s where I wanted to be,” Espinoza said. “I dropped the reins a little at the three-eighths. I didn’t want Dortmund to get away from him.”

Racing outside of Dortmund, California Chrome led in early stretch, holding a narrow advantage of a head with a furlong to go. Through the last eighth, California Chrome and Dortmund were side-by-side, with little between them. California Chrome was always in front and kept his lead to the finish, prevailing by a half-length in a brilliant race.

“I wanted to save a bit for the last sixteenth and that’s what I did,” Espinoza said. “It was a great race. That was something else.”

California Chrome ($3.60) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.84 in his first start since the Dubai World Cup. California Chrome carried top weight of 126 pounds, five more than Dortmund.

The 2014 Horse of the Year, California Chrome won for the 13th time in his 22-race career. Owned by Perry Martin and Taylor Made Farms, California Chrome, 5, has earned $12,652,650, a record for a North American-based Thoroughbred.

For Dortmund, the millionaire multiple stakes winner who finished third in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap was his first start since a win in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes here last November. Dortmund is trained by Bob Baffert for Kaleem Shah.

Dortmund was plagued with foot problems earlier this year, but had trained well in the build-up to the San Diego Handicap. He was considered a danger to the wildly popular California Chrome.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Dortmund, the 6-5 second choice in a field of five, led by as much as 1 1/2 lengths early in the race, through fractions of 23.47 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.02 seconds for a half-mile.

Dortmund was closely tracked by California Chrome throughout, with a half-length between them after a half-mile. Even when passed in the stretch, Dortmund fought back for several strides.

“I was coming back on him,” Stevens said. “He was trying to inch back and it was huge. It was a great effort for his comeback and a top effort. Hats off to California Chrome.”

Dortmund finished 7 1/4 lengths in front of Win the Space, who was followed by Follow Me Crev and Crittenden.

Espinoza and trainer Art Sherman discussed tactics earlier on Saturday. Sherman emphasized that he wanted Espinoza close to Dortmund on day when front-runners enjoyed significant success.

“I told Victor, ‘The track is playing to speed,’ ” Sherman said. “Press him as much as you can.

“They ran awfully fast,” Sherman said. “It was a great race. I thought they both raced their races. Dortmund made it hard for him.”

The rematch is scheduled for the $1 million Pacific Classic here on Aug. 20.

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Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Chrome had him all they way .but Dortmund did show why he is a horse to be reckoned with. Nice race. Probably the top horses in the country right now with Frosted.
Vince Piscitelli More than 1 year ago

As much as we all love watching Songbird run, and she is incredible, she would have to run about 5-7 lengths faster to compete with CA Chrome, Beholder and Dortmund. Not that she can't but at this point in time she isn't as fast as them. And I do realize she hasn't been asked for everything yet.

I'm thinking Frosted's huge Met win wasn't fake. I'd toss him into the mix.
Vince P
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
if dortmund couldnt beat him today he will never beat him. inside speed bias,speed all day,stevens had complete control of the race,cc first race after dubai, cc will move forward and dortmund will regress.it will be fun in the classic,hopefully they all stay healthy,the only threat to cc is songbird and beholder,two distaff players. nyquist if healthy is a nice 3 year old but seriously a weak bunch of 3's. this year if healthy cc will win the classic as there is no real threat. just my opinion
Ken Goldfarb More than 1 year ago
Chrome will not bounce after this race, this has set him up for the PC but Victor will have to negotiate a tighter trip .
Kenneth Sherman More than 1 year ago
You make a key point.  I've thought  for a long time, it's not the horse who doesn't like the rail, it's the jock.  This trip was way wide.  Against the best in the BCC it'll cost Chrome dearly. Again.  If VE can't start finding a way to save ground they need to find a jock who can. 
Juan Pena More than 1 year ago
I think Stevens is licking his chops after today's race. Beholder will triumph in Classic. Stevens pushed chrome to the wire on purpose. Chrome will
Bounce some going into classic. 
BrownRiggle More than 1 year ago
Beholder isn't beating either of these horses, not even on her best day.
Daniel More than 1 year ago
This is why I love horse racing!
ProXstream Gaming More than 1 year ago
Quick time.  Melatonin would've been 3 lengths behind.  No closers would've gained ground.   Can't wait for the Pacific Classic. 
Steve Hougom More than 1 year ago
You know I think your right.  I think Melatonin would have probably have had to fold his tent by the time things got hot in this one.  Good point. 
Union_Rags More than 1 year ago
2 super horses.