California Chrome assigned top weight of 126 pounds for San Diego ‘Cap
Weights were released Sunday night for the 13 nominees to the 1 1/16-mile event, a stepping stone to the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) on August 20.
Reigning Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist was assigned 119 pounds, the same impost as Baffert’s 5-year-old Grade 1 veteran Hoppertunity. But trainer Doug O’Neill plans to keep Nyquist in 3-year-old company in the July 31 Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth.
Two other sophomores are the bottomweights – recent Affirmed (G3) victor Dalmore (113) from the Keith Desormeaux barn and Baffert’s allowance romper Arrogate (111). Since Baffert has mentioned the Travers (G1) as a major goal for Arrogate, the July 30 Jim Dandy (G2) at the Spa may be the preferred option.
After Nyquist and Hoppertunity at 119 pounds come several older campaigners: Hard Aces (118); Imperative (117); Vyjack (117), scratched from last Saturday’s Wickerr after getting sick on the van ride down (as reported by Jay Privman); Follow Me Crev (116), who like Hard Aces has reportedly trained during the special time reserved for San Diego runners; Win the Space (116); Soi Phet (115); and Crittenden (114).
California Chrome will therefore spot his San Diego opponents a notable amount of weight. But he proved his superior weight-carrying ability in his World Cup prep at Meydan, where he made light of a 132-pound impost to outclass the field in a February 25 handicap. By following up with a tour de force in the $10 million World Cup, the popular Cal-bred became North America’s all-time leading earner with $12,532,650 in the bank.
After a richly deserved holiday, “Chrome” rejoined trainer Art Sherman to build up for the second half of the season. He polished off his San Diego preparations Saturday with a bullet five-furlong move in :59.20, designated “breezing” by the Del Mar clockers.
As the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) hero, Chrome represents the classic generation immediately preceding 2015 Triple Crown star American Pharoah. Although American Pharoah is happily living the life of a stallion, his stablemate Dortmund has the chance to represent his formline versus Chrome.
Like Chrome in 2014, Dortmund captured the 2015 San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) on the way to Churchill Downs. But the massive chestnut wound up third to American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby, and a distant fourth in the Preakness when unhappy in the slop. Those remain his only two losses in his 10-race career.
Freshened for five months to regain the weight he’d lost through the Triple Crown grind, Dortmund returned to win both of his starts over older horses last fall, the Big Bear and Native Diver (G3). Unfortunately, he’s been bedeviled by foot issues this season, and only now does Baffert have him ready to go. Dortmund has filled out his giant frame and now looms a 4-year-old hulk. He enters this comeback off a series of stiff drills, the last three going six furlongs.
The San Diego will be drawn Wednesday, so watch this space for the entries.
California Chrome photo courtesy of Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins