Before an enthusiastic on-track crowd of 5,023, California Chrome put on a show in his first start at the track where he has trained since January, 2014 in the $180,000 Winter Challenge Saturday at Los Alamitos.
The overwhelming 1-20 favorite in his final race in California, the 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit cruised past nine outclassed rivals in his prep for an anticipated rematch with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park. Outrun early after breaking from the outside in the field of 10, California Chrome was kept in the clear and extremely wide by jockey Victor Espinoza, wanting to avoid any possible traffic problems.
Fifth after the opening half-mile, the 2014 Horse of the Year and world’s richest active thoroughbred moved up to join the leaders without urging, swept to the lead with about 2 ½ furlongs to run as the cheers and noise level from his loyal supporters – affectionately known as Chromies – began to increase.From there, it was just a matter of what the margin of victory and the final time for the 1 1/16 miles would be. California Chrome’s 16th win in 26 starts saw him finish a dozen lengths in front of 21-1 second choice Point Piper. He stopped the clock in a track record 1:40.03, breaking the old mark of 1:40.82 set by Uncle Lino April 30 in – ironically – the California Chrome Stakes.
Trained by Art Sherman for Taylor Made Farm and co-breeder Perry Martin, California Chrome paid $2.10 in a race that featured only win wagering. The $50,000 payday pushed his earnings to $14,502,652.
“I was pretty nervous before the race,’’ said Sherman amidst a throng near the winner’s circle. “You know your horse is better than the others running in the race, but it is a horse race and anything can happen. (Espinoza) rode him with a lot of confidence.
“You could see he was much the best. I told Victor keep him in the clear and don’t get him in any trouble. He rode him like he was about 10 lengths the best horse. It was just perfect.
“Now I can relax and get ready for the Pegasus. I want Arrogate bad. I have something in my heart that says Chrome can beat him.
“The atmosphere here was just wonderful. It did my heart really good to be able to see him run in front of Orange County people. They are such loyal fans. This was a great day for racing. You can see what happens when you have a star.
“Let’s hope he pulled up well. He looked fine when he came by. I know with his record he will be Older Horse of the Year, but I’m rooting for him to be Horse of the Year. That would be a great way for him to go out.’’
Espinoza was also pleased with how the race will set California Chrome up for his finale in Florida. California Chrome is scheduled to begin his stud career in Kentucky after he competes in the Pegasus World Cup.
“When I got on him today he was stronger and it really surprised me,’’ said Espinoza. “When that happens I have a lot of confidence.
“I played it by ear coming out of the gate and when I saw some horses inside of me go, I just decided to sit off them and keep him in the clear. He’s very tactical and doesn’t need the lead. It was just perfect.’’
Ontario-bred HEART TO HEART almost a millionaire after El Prado win
96 Beyer Speed Figure
Gulfstream media – With an eye on bigger prizes at Gulfstream Park this winter, Heart to Heart got off to a hot start at the 2016-17 Championship Meet by winning the $100,000 El Prado on Saturday afternoon.
Piloted by Julien Leparoux, the 5-year-old son of English Channel set a pressured pace in the 7 1/2-furlong turf race and hung on for a neck victory over Flatlined.
Leparoux said he and Heart to Heart’s exit from the starting gate was not the smoothest.
“He actually broke and threw his head up and kind of bumped my nose a little bit, but the rail stayed open so I just put him in there and he relaxed good,” Leparoux said. “He loves this track. He got a little tired at the end, but I think he ran a big race.”
At the 2015-16 Gulfstream Park stand, the Brian Lynch-trained Heart to Heart won both the Fort Lauderdale (G2) and Canadian Turf (G3) for owner Terry Hamilton.
Lynch said those are his objectives again with Heart to Heart, who has won at distances up to 1 1/8 miles.
“He’s a versatile little guy; he won the Knickerbocker at a mile an eighth,” Lynch said. “Whenever he can dictate his terms — like today, I think he got pressed on a little bit and that is probably not his game. I think a mile and a mile and a sixteenth is his best game where he can clear them a little bit and just relax on a comfortable half-mile.”
The $200,000 Fort Lauderdale at 1 1/16 miles will be run Jan. 14, and is followed by the $150,000 Canadian Turf on March 4 at a mile.
Heart to Heart, whose earnings after the El Prado win reached $997,530, returned $3.60 as the favorite and completed the distance in 1:30.03 over a firm course.
He is $1,710 away from becoming the newest Ontario-bred millionaire.
ASK THE QUESTION, a daughter of Silver Deputy, is the dam of Heart to Heart. The mare, owned by Red Hawk ranch of Darrell Bauder of Cochrane, Alberta has an unraced juvenile gelding named Careless World (Gayego); a Silent Name (Jpn) filly yearling; and an Animal Kingdom weanling filly. She was bred back to Liam’s Map
WINNERS – MARKO MESIC, an owner and trainer at Woodbine, won a race at Penn National on Saturday evening with SHANGHAIED. Mesic has John Conner training for him at Penn National but the gelding was prepared for the $5,000 claiming race by Mesic since August, the last tiume the son of Big Drama raced.
STEVEN CHIRCOP, who has taken a busload of horses to Penn National, won his first race of that meeting when PHILANTHROMISTER got up to win a maiden claiming race worth $12,775 as the even money favourite. The race was an $8,000 claiming event and the winner is a Philanthropist 4-year-old out of Executive Mist by Bold Executive.