10/11/2014 1:13PM

California Chrome shows signs of progress

Tom Keyser
Trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza say they feel California Chrome is headed in the right direction for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic three weeks away at Santa Anita.

CYPRESS, Calif. – California Chrome, the Kentucky Derby winner, continued his encouraging training regimen on Saturday when he worked five furlongs here at Los Alamitos in 59.60 seconds, a drill that had both trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza believing he was headed in the right direction for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic three weeks away at Santa Anita.

Saturday’s work was the second for California Chrome since his sixth-place comeback effort in the Pennsylvania Derby last month at Parx. He worked a half-mile last Saturday, and went farther this time as the Classic draws closer.

California Chrome came on the track shortly after 8 a.m., right after the mid-morning renovation break. It was a cool, overcast morning at Los Alamitos, and California Chrome was feeling frisky, nipping at the pony that accompanied him prior to his workout.

“He knows when Victor’s on him he’s gonna go,” Sherman said. “He’s getting after that pony.”

:: BREEDERS’ CUP 2014: See DRF’s top contenders

After turning down the backstretch following a warm-up gallop, California Chrome broke away from the pony and began his solo work in earnest shortly before the five-furlong pole. He went off sensibly, an opening furlong timed in 13 seconds by Alan Sherman – Art’s son and assistant trainer -–but picked up steam rounding the far turn.

He was cruising through the lane, looking like he wanted some company to challenge him, but still polished off the drill in terrific time and went out an additional furlong to be up six furlongs in 1:13.20.

“He looks like he’s not even going,” Art Sherman said after the work. “He really looked smooth and easy. He was just galloping.”

Sherman said he had noticed California Chrome being far more attentive to his training since the Pennsylvania Derby.

“He’s really been on his toes,” Sherman said. “He’s been acting pretty strong. That race picked his head up.”

Espinoza agreed, saying California Chrome “hadn’t worked like that in a very long time.”

“He barely felt like he was hitting the ground,” Espinoza said. “So nice and smooth. He’s working like he did before, in the spring. I’ve been really impressed since the race. If he continues like that all the way to the Breeders’ Cup, he’s going to be tough.”

The Classic is shaping up as a showdown for the male 3-year-old title, and perhaps Horse of the Year, with the likes of Shared Belief, Bayern, and Tonalist all among the prospective field.

California Chrome will remain at Los Alamitos for his serious training, with works scheduled each of the next two Saturdays. Sherman said California Chrome would go over to Santa Anita the week of the Classic to reacquaint himself with the surroundings, including schooling at the gate and the paddock.

“I just want to get him used to the surroundings again,” Sherman said. “He’s been there. He knows Santa Anita.”

Earlier this year, California Chrome won the Santa Anita Derby as his final prep before victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.