11/29/2014 8:32PM

California Chrome scores emphatic win in Hollywood Derby

Emily Shields
California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza pull away to win the Hollywood Derby by two lengths Saturday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – It looks like the grass is greener on the other side for California Chrome.

In his first start on turf, California Chrome, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, added a fourth Grade 1 win to his gaudy 2014 ledger with an emphatic victory Saturday in the $300,250 Hollywood Derby at Del Mar.

The win was a popular one, for California Chrome ($3.40) was the heavy favorite against five rivals and lured the biggest crowd of the season, estimated by Del Mar officials at 21,000. He received a rousing cheer as he crossed under the wire and a bigger one when he returned to the winner’s circle.

California Chrome beat the filly Lexie Lou, the Queen’s Plate winner, by two lengths, with Talco another length back in third. Sawyer’s Hill, Cabral, and Flamboyant completed the order of finish.

California Chrome completed 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.88.

It took less time than that for the debates to begin anew over California Chrome’s chances at claiming the male 3-year-old title and Horse of the Year. His four Grade 1 wins are as many as the older horse Main Sequence, the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, but he’s the only top contender with Grade 1 wins on both dirt and turf. His other Grade 1 win this year was the Santa Anita Derby.

Unlike Bayern, 3, the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, California Chrome did not win a race against older horses. He was a close third in the Classic.

“I know I’m biased, but I think he deserves it,” said his trainer, Art Sherman, who was proven correct in his long-held belief that California Chrome would take to the turf.

California Chrome, starting from post 5 in the six-horse field, popped the gate and led the field for the first furlong until being overtaken by the expected pacesetter, Sawyer’s Hill, heading into the first turn. From that point on, he was in an ideal spot under jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode a flawless race.

“I knew he’d be sharp leaving the gate,” Sherman said. “When he broke really sharp, I said, ‘Oh, wow.’ ”

As the field neared the far turn, the back markers began to close, and Espinoza, sitting in second place on California Chrome, set out after Sawyer’s Hill. They overtook him, opened a commanding lead entering the lane, and never were threatened the length of the stretch.

“That kick at the end, that acceleration. It was just like when he won the Derby,” Espinoza said, referring to the Kentucky Derby. “When we got to the far turn, he was ready to roll. Oh, he was ready to roll. He just turned it on, and I knew we were home.”

Sherman had said for months that he thought California Chrome would like the turf, but his schedule earlier this year precluded him from trying it until now. Sherman originally had planned to give California Chrome the rest of the year off after the Breeders’ Cup, but as good trainers do, he adjusted when he saw how his horse was acting.

“He came out of that race like a tiger,” Sherman said.

After working California Chrome on turf last Sunday and galloping him on it Thursday, California Chrome was set to go.

“I’m happy for the fans,” said Sherman. “It makes me feel real good knowing he can run on the grass.”

The win was the ninth in 16 starts for California Chrome, a California-bred colt by Lucky Pulpit owned by his breeders, Perry Martin and Steve Coburn. He has earned more than $4.2 million.

Sherman said California Chrome will not race again until next year, but he will remain at Los Alamitos, his base, until his next start at Santa Anita this winter. The whole wide world awaits in 2015, depending on what Sherman, Martin, and Coburn want to do.

“We’ve got a lot of options now,” Sherman said, citing the Dubai World Cup, even Royal Ascot, as possibilities for the first half of the year.

That will wait until another day. For now, though, California Chrome is back. This was his first win since the Preakness. He had lost three straight.

Last Saturday, Sherman’s son and top assistant, Alan, was rushed to the hospital with what turned out to be bronchitis and asthma.

Alan Sherman was right beside California Chrome on Saturday, though, as he had been all spring. He pumped his fist with emotion when California Chrome came back to the winner’s circle following the race. Asked if he was feeling better, Alan Sherman replied, “I am now.”

jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
Royal Ascot? Don't be delirious.
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
Braindead comment.
Quite a More than 1 year ago
He might get HOY although I think Shared Belief was the best horse I saw this year.
mike More than 1 year ago
Have you lost your mind? SB hasn't done enough this yr to be considered.
mikey More than 1 year ago
He just about hand picked the field.
mike More than 1 year ago
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
nah, he had to have hoof- picked 'em, no doubt using his healed right front
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Fun Guy More than 1 year ago
If only there was a horse that CC raced more than once THIS YEAR. Say 3 times. And if only there was a horse that beat CC 2 out of 3 THIS YEAR. Then, I would say that horse, BAYERN, deserves HOY more than CC. Avoiding any of the beat to death issues with BAYERN's BC win -- your question was not who should be HOY - - it makes no sense to put CC above BAYERN for HOY. CC can be no better than second in HOY behind BAYERN and if BAYERN is second or third, CC should still be lower. CC had a perfect trip in the Classic and lost to Bayern. The same horse CC lost to in PA. The only time CC beat BAYERN, THIS YEAR, is the Preakness when BAYERN got run over out of the gate. Being very generous, throw out PA because CC got "boxed in" -- other than that giant runway BAYERN opened at the top of the stretch. Either way, call it 1 to 1 heading to the BC where CC got a perfect trip and couldn't beat BAYERN (or TNY).
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
replies truncated &/or blocked
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
DQ Bayern adn he's left with one piddling Grade One stakes win. HoY?--3- Year Old Champ, even?--Laughable
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
He's done all but win Triple Crown... Quit blaming Himself !!!
Franz Smythe More than 1 year ago
This last turf last against a short, VERY weak field should have no bearing on HOY. I think CC lost too many races to win HOY if looking at just racing. If you want to throw in the story lines that hooked the reality tv crowd, make CC the most POPULAR HOY.
mike More than 1 year ago
riskit101 . More than 1 year ago
I don't think loses have to do with it as much as wins. 6/9 wins is pretty good...
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
Too many? They BOTH lost three times in 2014. Difference being CALIFORNIA CHROME was only being denied his Third Crown after trailing blood from the gate and going 5-wide entering the Belmont stretch; or racing pinned down on the rail, first start off his convalescence; or closing gamely, for a neck back 3-wide finish, in BAYERN's illegitimate BC Classic. As for Bayern: He was doing things like stopping on a dime, finishing 20 lengths in arrears, for his Travers.. ...Couldn't even turn back RIDE ON CURLIN, in the Arkanasas Derby (although he did record a forgivable start in CHROME's Preakness). You are clouding your judgement, relying solely on a slim 2/1 edge in head to head wins, when it should have dawned on you by now that none of these races took place in a vacuum. Be bold. Dare to place an asterisk, where well warranted. Disregard the bogus. Keep it real!
Robin More than 1 year ago
A bunch of CALIFORNIA CHROME HATERS! Why can't you just enjoy a good story for horse and owner and trainer?
Robert Hampton More than 1 year ago
Left out the Jockey! ;)
tommy More than 1 year ago
California chrome is not an amazing horse, he has no track record, no triple crown, and has a losing record to bayern. Bayern beat California chrome twice and California only beat bayern once. I guess 2 is better than one right?? Horse of the year will go towards untapable, main sequence, wise dan, who hold multiple track records and has not lost more than one time this year or in main sequence is 4 for 4 in grade 1 races including breeders cup who he beat the best European horse of the year!!
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Tommy "can you hear me?" You have not been watching.
mike More than 1 year ago
Yeah Tommy,Triple Crowns are realized every couple yrs or so aren't they. Guess you don't get out much.
riskit101 . More than 1 year ago
I have no clue but when did the hoy honors go to a horse with only 4 races like main sequence?
Fun Guy More than 1 year ago
Main Sequence lost 10 consecutive turf races in Europe before moving to the US, which has much weaker turf racing, and winning 4 in a row. But 3 of the 4 wins were by photo against marginal fields. And 2 of the 4 G1 races will likely be downgraded to G2 in 2015 because the rest of the field performance ratings. Nice BC win but 4 turf race wins in the US is not a HOY campaign in my book.
Anon ymous More than 1 year ago
Give you THIS for your track record
John Stevelberg More than 1 year ago
Was looking forward to this race, but it ended up a major disappointment. Not because CC won, he did what was expected. The race came up really light - late in the season, small purse (relatively speaking) so no top flight turfers were entered. None of this is CC's fault. The behavior that turned me to the Auburn/Bama Game was we just got tired of the TVG Network's talking heads touting the race for at least a couple of weeks - ad naseum. The race, any race, should stand on its own merits. If CC wasn't entered this would have been a major dud.
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Horse of the Year means 12 months or 365 days not 6 months or the first half or second half of the year doesn't mean what have you done for us lately it means horse of the year So you lose a few in between the year or the 365 days its okay Who raced for the fans California Chrome did If it is decided by the fans its California Chrome
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
AND his Trainer, Art Sherman.