12/14/2016 3:06PM

Ten likely foes for California Chrome in Winter Challenge

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Reed and Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs
Point Piper, shown winning the Longacres Mile, may be the best of the rivals California Chrome will face on Saturday.

There are 10 horses likely to face California Chrome in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Winter Challenge. Or, at least 10 horses willing to take a chance at decent prize money for finishing second.

The Winter Challenge is run at 1 1/16 miles and was developed in recent months as a final start in California for California Chrome before his last career race in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28. California Chrome is scheduled to go to stud in Kentucky in February.

As of Wednesday morning, Ain’t Misbehavin, Air Pocket, Avanti Bello, Ground Rules, Howdy, Mishegas, Papacoolpapacool, Point Piper, Unusual Meeting, and Wrightwood were expected to enter. Realistically, they are running for second-place money of $30,000.

The race will pay $50,000 to the winner, $20,000 to third, and $15,000 to the fourth- and fifth-place finishers. All other finishers will receive $10,000. If all those horses run, the race will be worth $180,000, much higher than the advertised purse of $100,000. The track boosted prize money for the second- through fifth-place finishers and guaranteed $10,000 per finisher to entice participation.

Aside from California Chrome, who was second to Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, Point Piper has the best form this year. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the 6-year-old Point Piper won the Grade 3 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs in August, was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 4, and ran second in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 27.

Owned by a partnership that includes Gatto Racing and Hollendorfer, Point Piper has won 5 of 27 starts and earned $436,635. The Longacres Mile is his only win in nine starts this year.

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“He’s been a bit of an in-and-out horse,” Hollendorfer said Wednesday. “He’s doing really good. We’ll enter and see what happens.”

California Chrome has won 6 of 7 starts this year, including the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in March and the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.

Aside from California Chrome and Point Piper, the only other 2016 stakes winner among the expected runners is Avanti Bello, who won the Tiznow Stakes for California-breds at Santa Anita in May. Trained by Doug O’Neill, Avanti Bello won an allowance race at Santa Anita on Oct. 30 and is the only projected starter who won his last start.

California Chrome had a routine training session at Los Alamitos on Wednesday. He galloped and schooled in the paddock.

“He won’t do much before the race,” trainer Art Sherman said.

Sherman is concerned about weather conditions in the coming days. Rain was expected Thursday and early Friday, although Saturday’s conditions were expected to be clear, cool, and windy.

“I’m hoping we don’t have to worry about it,” he said.