Updated on 01/13/2016 10:44AM

California Chrome scores comeback victory in San Pasqual

Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome, racing for the first time in more than nine months, delivers as the 3-5 favorite in the San Pasqual.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The ninth stakes win of California Chrome’s career in Saturday’s $200,500 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita reminded winning rider Victor Espinoza of the horse’s sixth stakes win in the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

California Chrome took the lead with a quarter-mile remaining in the Grade 2 San Pasqual at 1 1/16 miles. While 7-1 Imperative offered a brief challenge in the stretch, California Chrome was too sharp in his first start in nine months, and won by 1 1/4 lengths.

“He accelerated in the stretch,” Espinoza said. “In the Kentucky Derby, he had a kick in the stretch and today he did the same thing. I’m so proud of him.”

The Kentucky Derby remains California Chrome’s most famous win and contributed to him being voted Horse of the Year in 2014. This year, the same Horse of the Year title is a goal for a popular 5-year-old who will be sent to Dubai later this month to be prepared for the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on March 26.

Judging from the San Pasqual, California Chrome will be competitive in the Dubai World Cup, a race in which he was second in 2015.

California Chrome ($3.20) was timed in 1:43.39 for his win in San Pasqual. He had an ideal trip.  Espinoza positioned California Chrome in second for the first six furlongs, following the 38-1 outsider Alfa Bird, who set fractions of 24.82 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 49.12 seconds for the first half-mile.

Racing on the outside, California Chrome moved closer to Alfa Bird on the turn before taking the lead. He led by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go.

“I was confident the whole way,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza said that California Chrome’s six-furlong workout in 1:10.04 at Santa Anita on Jan. 2 gave him more confidence that the horse was ready for the San Pasqual.

“He put me in a different mentality,” he said.

Imperative, best known for winning the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia in 2014, closed from fourth to finish second. Imperative gave trainer Richard Baltas a brief thrill in the stretch when he closed into California Chrome’s lead for a few strides, but the moment was short-lived.

“I’m proud of the horse,” Baltas said. “It looked like he might get to that horse in the stretch, but Chrome was ready. He’s a special horse that racing needs.”

Baltas said that Imperative was troubled with a tender foot earlier in the week, but that he showed no problems in a key gallop on Friday. Baltas consulted with his veterinarian and farrier before making final plans for a start.

“They said we were okay to run,” Baltas said.

Hoppertunity, who won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes in 2015, finished third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths. Hard Aces, the winner of the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita last June, finished fourth, followed by Blingo, Point Piper, and Alfa Bird. Mystery Train was withdrawn on Saturday morning.

California Chrome earned $120,000, and is now the richest California-bred in history, with earnings of $6,442,650. He surpassed Tiznow, the 2000 Horse of the Year who earned $6,427,830.

The win in the Grade 2 San Pasqual will be California Chrome’s final start in the United States for several months. He is scheduled to be sent to Dubai on Jan. 21 and will have a prep race there in advance of the Dubai World Cup.

Trainer Art Sherman was as relieved as he was delighted that California Chrome won his comeback.

“It worried me for a moment that he could get late,” Sherman said. “I’m hoping he got a lot out of the race. I think we’ll have a big 2016 if we can keep him sound and happy.”

California Chrome races for Perry Martin and Taylor Made Farm. Last summer, Taylor Made Farm bought breeder and previous minority owner Steve Coburn’s 30 percent share. The win left Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Farm eager for the rest of 2016.

“He’s such a special horse,” Taylor said. “I thought he needed a little bit of a race. It tested him. I think it was a good start.”


TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
this horse is such a joy to watch no matter whos silks are on his back! welcome back CC, hopefully youll get it done this year in Dubai, you money making machine!
Cara Ezzell More than 1 year ago
CC looking like himself!! Won it w/ ease!! That's an excellent photo taken by Barbara Livingston; would it be possible to purchase a copy? Thanks!
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
In the race just before the san pasquel, the optional claimers ran just as fast. Maybe we will see one of these horses win a grade 1 out there in socal ? It was good for chrome to get a win after a long layoff. But he use to be the smoothest runner. Not sure why you would put him up in class at this time. Romans did not fare well with his horses in dubai. The last quarter in the sham wasnt good.
mike More than 1 year ago
Stop complaining. He ran well,considering he hadn't raced in ten months. What did you expect?
Helaine More than 1 year ago
He got weight off in the loss of Coburn.Hope to never see him near a track ever again.
mike More than 1 year ago
Tell me,who dresses you in the morning?
William More than 1 year ago
Didn't have much to beat.
mike More than 1 year ago
Speaking of not much,how are you?
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Wow. I stand corrected. Congratulations to California Chrome and all the Chromies out there. I have been as critical of the owners and CC as anyone. I was wrong. It's funny, because I did have him in the Kentucky Derby and loved him in the Preakness, but couldn't wager that day due to his low odds. But since I was truly critical. And once again, I'll admit I was wrong. ( Mike on here will be happy to see this post. ha. ). As a horse racing fan, what I witnessed today was just awesome. CC looked awesome in his workouts, he's filled out and is just beautiful and he raced like a tremendous professional today, against very good horses and after a 9 month layoff. Well done Art Sherman. Well done. This is what makes this sport so great. I can be wrong about a horse, I certainly can be wrong about an individual race, but, no matter what watching these amazing animals thunder down the stretch is worth the entire experience. Congrats again Chromies. You've been faithful. Enjoy your horse. I will too.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
This horse could possibly make a lot of doubters eat "Chro"me.
Lynda King More than 1 year ago
Love your comments! ( I am for sure a Chromie...but not one of the crazy ones....LOL, just love the horse)
mike More than 1 year ago
Sorry to break it to you,there's "CRAZY" FANS IN EVERY SPORT.
Union_Rags More than 1 year ago
CC ran 2 his looks.
Eugene Dawson More than 1 year ago
Great day for the sport.Awesome job done by trainer Sherman and his team.