California Chrome blazes six furlongs in 1:10.04

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January 2nd, 2016

Exactly one week ahead of his comeback in the San Pasqual (G2), California Chrome polished off his preparations with a six-furlong work shortly before Saturday’s 1ST race at Santa Anita. The 2014 Horse of the Year would have done well to show no rust, but he did a lot more, shining as brilliantly as ever by clocking 1:10.04 on his own.

“He’s the best he’s ever been since I’ve had him,” trainer Art Sherman said. “He looks ready to me.”

California Chrome, who had been working without blinkers, had the headgear back on for this last major drill for the San Pasqual. Under jockey Victor Espinoza, the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1)-winning champion took to the track right on time, at about 11:45 a.m. (PST). He was escorted by a pony during the warm-up phase, as they toured the “wrong way” until reaching the finish line. Then they stopped, and resumed the right way.

Breaking off at the six-furlong pole, California Chrome strode out enthusiastically through fractions of :23.65, :46.66 and :58.30. Espinoza sat chilly as his partner completed the move and continued to gallop out with gusto.

“I got him (galloping out) in 1:22.20 for seven-eighths,” said Sherman, who had initially thought about racing his stable star without blinkers in the San Pasqual.

But after this razor-sharp work in blinkers, you'd have to think that Sherman would opt to keep them on after all. And that's what his latest comments to the Blood-Horse's Jeremy Balan suggest.

Considering that “Chrome” has been away from competition since his gallant second in the March 28 Dubai World Cup (G1), this exercise in front of a raceday crowd should help get him mentally, no less than physically, cranked up for his return to action.

“If he has a good trip (in the San Pasqual), he’ll be tough to beat," Sherman said. "He hasn’t run in nine months and there’s nothing like having a race, but working like this in front of the public is the next-best thing.

“He’s ready. I’m real happy. This is what we needed. He’s had almost nine months off and that’s a long time when you’re running against Grade 1 horses. He’s been training good, acting good; he’s a lot different horse right now. He’s stronger and he’s more focused. He’s going to run."

The San Pasqual will be no soft spot, for waiting in the wings is Bob Baffert's massive Dortmund. (Or not. Baffert ruled Dortmund out after his Sunday work.)

But Espinoza agrees that Chrome is primed for his return.

“This work was excellent," the rider said. "He’s different from before. Soundness-wise, he’s different. He always had a little bit of weakness behind, in his back end, but with the time off, he’s come back…he’s stronger and I could feel that the whole time he was running.

“I was really impressed with the way he worked today, it was an excellent work.

“I don’t feel that Los Alamitos is good enough for a horse like him to get fit off of such a long layoff," Espinoza added, referring to Chrome's home base where he has been gearing up.  "I don’t know if it can get him truly ready only running over that track. I’m so glad Art brought him here to Santa Anita to work."

Espinoza has another reason to be glad -- he very much wanted Chrome to keep his blinkers.

“He worked in 1:25 last time (1:25.40 at Los Alamitos last Sunday) but I wasn’t really impressed with that work at all. He’s not a great worker without blinkers," Espinoza offered.

"Today, we added blinkers and it was such a solid work. I’m really excited now and I’m looking forward to next Saturday.”

Photo courtesy of Benoit