11/01/2014 10:12PM

California Chrome redeems himself with near-miss

Tom Keyser
California Chrome, ridden by Victor Espinoza, made a game run at Bayern in the stretch, but fell a half-length short in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

ARCADIA, Calif. -- The roller-coaster ride that was California Chrome’s star-studded 2014 campaign came to a bittersweet end in the gloaming at Santa Anita late Saturday afternoon, where the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner came within a half-length of winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic and clinching not only the 3-year-old championship but perhaps Horse of the Year honors as well.

In the end, California Chrome had no real excuse after avoiding the early trouble that eliminated several key contenders in the Classic,  including his chief rival for 3-year-old honors entering the race, the previously undefeated Shared Belief.  Now it is Bayern, who survived a stewards’  inquiry to add the Classic to earlier victories in the Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby, and becomes the front-runner for the title.

California Chrome, who came from humble beginnings, captured the country’s imagination following his victories in the Derby and Preakness. But he became vilified in the eyes of many when his quest for the Triple Crown ended with a fourth-place finish in the Belmont due to inflammatory comments made by co-owner Steve Coburn moments after the race.

California Chrome returned to California and received a well-deserved  break following the controversy in New York.  Training in the relative obscurity of his home base at Los Alamitos, he would start just once prior to the Classic, finishing sixth as the odds-on favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 20.

“I wish we could have gotten in one more race before this one,” said jockey Victor Espinoza, who was lauded for his rides aboard California Chrome in the first two legs of the Triple Crown and then criticized for his handling of the colt in both the Belmont and Pennsylvania Derby. “I had a good trip today. I thought they’d go a little quicker the first half-mile but the other speed [Moreno] got completely eliminated out of the gate. I knew [Bayern]was tough when he’s in front, but I already had my position so I had to wait and be patient. He tried really hard, although in the end he just got a little tired. But it was a tremendous year. It was such a great run winning the Derby and Preakness and after his race today, I still think he deserves to be the 3-year-old champion.”

Alan Sherman serves as an assistant for his father, trainer Art Sherman, and was an integral part of California Chrome’s Triple Crown run, overseeing the horse’s training on the East Coast throughout the series. The younger Sherman said after the Classic that he couldn’t have been prouder of his horse, even in defeat.

“Of course you’d like to win,” said Sherman. “I don’t know if he idled or got a little tired at the end of the race. Maybe it was just that the other two horses kept on running.  Whatever the case, Chrome ran his heart out and that’s all you can ask. Although I do believe Bayern should have been disqualified. What happened after the start really changed the whole dynamic of the race.”

Sherman said he believes the 3-year-old championship and perhaps Horse of the Year honors, could well come down to a close vote among  his horse, Bayern,  and Shared Belief.

“You can probably give the award to any of the three,” said Sherman. “As for us, it was an awesome experience, so much fun. And whether he wins the championship or not, it was still an amazing year.”        







April Smith More than 1 year ago
I believed in you,Chrome.Fell in love on the backside at Pimlico.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
CC won my bet. He beat both Tonalist and SB! Go Chrome! See you again, soon I hope. Congrats to all the connections. - JG
Barbara Joy More than 1 year ago
Gotta love the egos of the trainers and owners. These are still babies...I cringe when I see these horses race waiting for the breakdown. The way that thoroughbreds are discarded when their owners are 'over them'...disgusting. Chrome should have been retired after the Belmont...but nope, let's go for the ego and money...now they'll probably run him more to satisfy the insatiable egos.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Barbara, Did you know that Affirmed, Alydar, Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, and other greats ran at 4 and 5? It's a great thing for fans that these horses run. Do you want to see them all retired after 5 races?
Christina Black Melton More than 1 year ago
You really have no idea what you're talking about. This horse loves to run. Retiring him would be the absolute wrong thing to do.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
Incorrect. He's fine and Art Sherman isn't greedy, nor are the DAP. CC still has the roar from fans, did you not hear it, 3x.
Incubus More than 1 year ago
that would be the crueliest thing you could do is retire him,this horse loves to run,he loves the ace he looks so happ when he is doing what he was breed to do, i think you would have a depressed horse he is young let him be happy l cringe when i read your post please
nick More than 1 year ago
My opinion Bayern should be 3yr old of the year and Cal Chrome HOY. CC has done a lot of good for racing this year, despite his apprentice owner. The call by the stewards in the BC was correct. Shared Belief got a bad trip, it happens.
mildred grossman More than 1 year ago
What the critics weren't realizing that the little horse California Chrome was running a clean race and he was gaining, if the race was a little longer I don't believe Bayern would have won, I think Chrome would have gone full throttle. Why do people want to discredit this horse when push came to shove he won the Derby and the Preakness, the other horses did not! To the owners and trainer you should be nothing but proud...............................
Union_Rags More than 1 year ago
I mean the CLARK.
Union_Rags More than 1 year ago
I will bet u a dollar, he shows up for the Stephen Foster.
Mark More than 1 year ago
I am a bartender and a bar manager in a local bar in ohio. We had our halloween party last night, and college football on every t.v. The place was packed. I had the B.C. on one of the tv's, and was asked to change the channel at least ten times. I was clearly the only one in the entire place watching. Not one person in the place knew anything about the B.C. Just then, someone said, hey it's California Chrome. There was an immediate crowd of about ten or more people that gathered in front of the t.v. to watch CC. They were not watching to watch the Breeders Cup, they were watching Chrome. CC has done so much for the horse racing industry, he definitely deserves horse of the year. The Chrome connections are pure class, minus Coburn's outburst after the Belmont. I think the Breeders Cup ruling was the correct outcome. Cant really control horses out of the gate and I have never seen a Inquiry due to the start if a race. Morally I think it was wrong, but in regards to the rules of horse racing it was right. I also think Baffert showed no class after the race in his interviews.
Steve More than 1 year ago
I can't believe that no one is talking about how much ground Chrome lost. He was 3 wide, 4 wide, 5 wide the entire 1 1/4 miles. Horses rarely win when they lose that much ground. Gallant effort by Chrome
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
They are, but not on Drf.
1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
Here's DRF, the place to chat about horseracing, with the people who pay for their PP's and other soft information. There was some bumping at the start of the Classic. Can't argue that. But if you didn't bet on Shared Belief, your complaints really don't have a basis that I can understand. You aren't much of a fan of the sport. If you were, you would've seen similar incidents every day. It happens, when they get into stride., horses do bump a little/a lot. Toast of New York might've been taken down; his involvement was very different, compared to Bayern . It's not necessarily a conspiracy, in spite of what you think you saw. Sorry.