01/25/2014 9:49PM

Santa Anita: California Chrome enters Kentucky Derby picture with big Cal Cup Derby win

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Benoit & Associates
California Chrome is expected to get a shot at the road to the Kentucky Derby after winning the California Cup Derby by 5 1/2 lengths.

ARCADIA, Calif. – California Chrome proved himself best of the statebreds on Saturday at Santa Anita with an overpowering victory in the $250,000 California Cup Derby, a performance that his trainer, Art Sherman, thought was in him, and which will earn California Chrome a shot to prove himself worth of getting to another Derby, the one in Kentucky on May 3.

“He had been training like a bomb,” Sherman said after California Chrome rolled to a 5 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds. Tamarando, winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last summer, rallied for second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Life Is a Joy.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Awesome Return was fourth and was followed, in order, by Better Bet, Public Policy, and Lucky Views.

Three horses did not finish the race. Aotearoa was eased on the far turn. And then in the stretch, Electric Eddie, while racing in fifth place, broke down, and, unable to run straight because of his injuries, veered into the path of Oh Billy Billy, who ran into him.

Martin Garcia, riding Oh Billy Billy, and Mario Gutierrez, on Electric Eddie, both were dislodged. Neither rider appeared injured, nor did Oh Billy Billy.

Electric Eddie, however, suffered a serious injury to his left front leg. He was taken back to the barn of trainer Ben Cecil for X-rays. As of 5:30 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, he was still alive.

California Chrome was winning for the fourth time in eight starts. This was the second straight race in which he clobbered his opposition. He won the seven-furlong King Glorious at Hollywood Park on Dec. 22 by 6 1/4 lengths when ridden for the first time by Victor Espinoza, who was back aboard Saturday.

“It’s like the light bulb has gone on,” said Sherman, who said the addition of Lasix and blinkers has contributed to California Chrome’s improvement. He is 3 for 5 with both Lasix and blinkers.

“I didn’t want to throw all that at him at once,” Sherman said. “We didn’t rush him. He’s learned how to rate himself.”

California Chrome got a perfect trip on Saturday. He sat third behind Better Bet and Life Is a Joy before making an eye-catching move into the lane that catapulted him to the front.

Sherman said California Chrome would make his next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 8. That 1 1/16-mile race is the last major prep for the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5. Sherman said California Chrome was nominated to the Triple Crown. Those nominations closed Saturday.

California Chrome, a chestnut-colored colt by Lucky Pulpit out of the Not for Love mare Love the Chase, was bred and is owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin.