01/11/2016 5:04PM

The week that was in racing, January 4-10, 2016

Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome wins the San Pasqual

Here's a collection of some of the biggest stories in horse racing, all in one place. Unless noted, all of the links here are to free stories on DRF.com. Enjoy.

Graded stakes across the country

The attention of the racing world Saturday was focused at Santa Anita, where California Chrome made his return to the races, winning the Grade 2 San Pasqual. It was his first start since running second in the Dubai World Cup, his first start in North America since running second to Shared Belief in the San Antonio last February, and his first win on dirt since the Preakness nearly 20 months ago.

Also at Santa Anita on Saturday, Collected bested Let’s Meet in Rio in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, a prep race for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby (which itself is a prep for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby). With Bob Baffert training the top-two finishers in the Sham, he seems to have a barn loaded with Derby contenders again this year, although this may not have been the strongest edition of the Sham.

The other graded stakes races this weekend were run Saturday at Gulfstream Park, and two of those three stakes were won by the exact same connections: owner Al Shaqab Racing, trainer Todd Pletcher, and jockey Javier Castellano. That trio won the Grade 3 Marshua’s River Stakes on turf with Sandiva and then captured the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope Stakes on dirt with Mshawish three races later.

Heart to Heart went wire to wire to win the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale Stakes in Saturday’s feature at Gulfstream Park, under jockey Julien Leparoux for trainer Brian Lynch. It was the fifth graded stakes win for the 5-year-old son of English Channel, who ran his career record on turf to 7 for 12.

Eclipse Award finalists announced

The 2015 Eclipse Award finalists were announced Wednesday, and Team American Pharoah dominated. The Triple Crown champion is an overwhelming favorite to win Horse of the Year and 3-year-old male honors, and his human connections were named finalists in the jockey, trainer, owner, and breeder categories.

The winners in many other categories seem to be formalities, with Beholder, Runhappy, Songbird, and Nyquist considered locks to be named champions, but winners in other categories weren’t nearly as obvious. Debate swirled online around finalists in a number of categories, most notably 3-year-old filly, male turf horse, and female sprinter.

Even the DRF writers had to agree to disagree on whom were deserving finalists in some categories

Winners will be announced Saturday at the 45th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at Gulfstream Park.

Other stakes action

La Verdad returned to her winning ways Saturday, easily taking the $100,000 Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct. It was her sixteenth career victory, in 25 starts, and her 11th stakes victory. It could have been the final race of the 6-year-old mare’s career, although owner Sheila Rosenbaum and trainer Linda Rice are considering running her in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Stakes on Feb. 13 at Laurel Park before she is bred to Medaglia d’Oro.

Fast Flying Rumor went wire to wire in the $100,000 Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, demolishing a field of nine rivals while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 108, the highest figure ever posted at Tampa. The 4-year-old gelding seems to have found his niche sprinting on the grass as he’s now 3 for 5 in those races and 2 for 9 in others.

Best ride of the week

Blinkers Off: Jockey Scott Stevens managed to hang on and win Tuesday’s fourth race at Turf Paradise, even after his mount’s hood became dislodged midrace. As the horses approached the far turn, the Velcro closure securing the blinkers on Stevens’s mount Unstoppable Colby disconnected, impairing the horse’s vision. The quick-thinking jockey was able to get the blinkers back in place and held them there for the stretch, even as he passed his rivals for the win.

Watch the replay:

Horses to watch

Santa Anita:
Trainer: Art Sherman
Last race: Jan. 9, 4th
Finish: 4th by 6 1/2
Beyer: 65
A debuting 3-year-old ignored in the betting, this Macho Uno colt ran well. Broke slowly, settled in midpack, raced wide, and finished evenly. He probably wants a longer distance.

DRF Plus subscribers can see the rest of Brad Free’s horses to watch from last week by clicking here.

Trainer: Michelle Nevin
Last race: Jan. 9, 6th
Finish: 8th by 9 1/4
Beyer: 38
This $415,000 purchase as a 2-year-old last March was bet to 8-5 for his debut and brushed the gate to come out a step slowly from the inside post. The Bellamy Road colt might show more stretching out.

DRF Plus subscribers can see the rest of Dave Litfin’s horses to watch from last week by clicking here.

Webinar Recap

DRF Southern California handicapper Brad Free joined Tournaments Editor Peter Thomas Fornatale and Director of Product Marketing Mike Hogan for an introduction to DRF Formulator and a preview of last Thursday’s pick six carryover at Santa Anita.

Useful viewing for anyone interested in learning a few tips on becoming a better handicapper by using DRF Formulator, the webinar also is worth watching to hear how a top handicapper like Free approaches multirace bets. In this sequence, he singled Touched by Autism in the second leg, and the 3-year-old California-bred didn’t disappoint as he re-rallied late for the win over And Then Some.

Webinar replay:

additional reporting by Charlie Zegers