08/01/2013 2:52PM

Del Mar: California Chrome earns shot at Del Mar Futurity

Benoit & Associates
California Chrome, winning the Graduation Stakes for California-breds on Wednesday, will be pointed to the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity..

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DEL MAR, Calif. – From 2008 to 2011, the top horse in trainer Art Sherman’s stable was the mare Ultra Blend, a millionaire who won eight stakes ranging from a Grade 1 to restricted races for California-breds.

Sherman is hoping that California Chrome can win the same kinds of races in his career.

Wednesday, California Chrome won his first stakes in the $100,250 Graduation Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs for California-bred 2-year-olds at Del Mar. The win has left Sherman planning a start for California Chrome in the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity, a Grade 1 over seven furlongs on Sept. 4.

“It would be nice to get another one like Ultra Blend,” Sherman said. “I really think he’ll go longer. He’s acting like that with the way he’s trained. He’s going to be a nice 3-year-old. He’s got a nice stride.”

Sherman said on Thursday that California Chrome was “sharp” a day after winning the Graduation by 2 3/4 lengths.

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“He’s alert and not tired,” Sherman said. “He’s a tough little guy.”

Ridden by Alberto Delgado, California Chrome ($14.40) stalked the pace for the first half-mile before taking the lead. He drew away from six rivals in the final furlong to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Moving Desert.

[DEL MAR 2013: Complete meet coverage, schedule, race replays]

Owned by breeders Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome, a colt by Lucky Pulpit, has won 2 of 4 starts and $100,600.

Futurity prospects in weekend races

The field for the Del Mar Futurity will be better known after a maiden race on Saturday and the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on Sunday.

Saturday’s maiden race, the first on a 10-race program, drew a field of seven, including Knock Em Flat, who finished last of seven as the 2-1 favorite in his career debut in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 13.

Saturday, Knock Em Flat faces five first-time starters, including Hold Everything, a colt by Corinthian trained by Bob Baffert; Touchdownwilson, a Mr. Greeley gelding trained by Jerry Hollendorfer; and Tanzanite Cat, a colt by Graeme Hall trained by Cody Autrey.

Tanzanite Cat worked a half-mile from the gate in 46.40 seconds last Sunday. Earlier this summer, Tanzanite Cat worked in company on several occasions with the Autrey-trained Guns Loaded, a colt expected to start in the Best Pal.

Tanzanite Cat is owned by James and Ywachetta Driver, and was purchased for $150,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s sale of 2-year-olds in training in Florida in April. Autrey said that Tanzanite Cat was not able to outwork Guns Loaded in recent works, but did stay close.

The trainer said he was impressed with Tanzanite Cat’s recent gate work.

“That was the first time that we let him run away from there,” he said. “We expect he’ll show a lot of early foot.”

Tanzanite Cat could compete for the early lead with Rum Point, a Malibu Moon colt trained by Doug O’Neill who was third in a maiden race at Hollywood Park on July 14. In that race, Rum Point was beaten by Alberts Hope, who has been entered for the Best Pal.

The Best Pal has a projected field of seven, led by Alpine Luck and Ontology, the first two finishers of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Aside from Alberts Hope and Guns Loaded, other expected starters are Celtic Moon, Easy Solution, and Skydreamin.

Skydreamin is unbeaten in two starts in Northern California, the most recent of which was the Everett Nevin Futurity at Pleasanton on July 7.

P. Val returns to ride six races

Tanzanite Cat will be ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, who returns to riding for the first time since November with six mounts on Saturday.

Valenzuela, 50, said he underwent knee surgery earlier this year. He received doctor’s clearance in late July to resume exercising horses and has spent several mornings on the Del Mar backstretch in the last week.

In November 2011 Valenzuela announced his retirement, but returned to racing in May 2012. In 2012, he won 9 races from 129 mounts, including Grade 1 races aboard Acclamation in the Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park and the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar.