California Chrome drills in company; blinkers off for San Pasqual

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December 27th, 2015

At his Los Alamitos headquarters on Sunday, California Chrome continued his build-up to a comeback in the January 9 San Pasqual (G2). The 2014 Horse of the Year drilled seven furlongs in 1:25 2/5 beneath jockey Victor Espinoza, but without blinkers, and with a target.

Trainer Art Sherman decided to work his stable star in company, sending the 3-year-old Unusually Big out as his lead horse. California Chrome spotted him a good head start, took his usual strong hold, easily caught up to his workmate on the far turn, but didn’t edge away until Espinoza’s mild urging in deep stretch.

According to Los Alamitos clocker Russ Hudak, “Chrome” posted fractions of :24 4/5 and :48 1/5 covered six furlongs in 1:12 1/5. He galloped out a seventh furlong, and was credited with that as his official work time of 1:25 2/5.

Sherman was “very satisfied” with the exercise.

“I thought it was a great work,” the trainer said in the Los Alamitos video below. “We’re right on schedule for the San Pasqual.”

Plans call for Chrome to polish off his preparations with one more work, to take place between races at Santa Anita. The San Pasqual will mark his return from a nine-month layoff. The dual classic-winning champion has been sidelined since his runner-up effort in the March 28 Dubai World Cup (G1). (See this post for an overview of California Chrome’s 2015 odyssey.)

Espinoza also gave a positive assessment. Terming it a “strong work today,” he said that Chrome felt like he’s back.

But interestingly, trainer and jockey aren’t on the same page when it comes to the blinker question, as Jeremy Balan’s Blood-Horse report reveals.

Sherman’s been working him without the headgear, and looks forward to “blinkers off” in the San Pasqual.

“He's more focused as an older horse now and I really don't think he needs the blinkers,” the trainer told Balan.

“I always thought he hung a little bit sometimes waiting on horses. This way he can see them coming to him and it could make a big difference.”

Espinoza, on the other hand, believes that the colt lost focus without the blinkers Sunday.

"I feel like he works better with blinkers on," he told Balan. "I had to ask him a little bit."

The San Pasqual could feature an intergenerational clash, with the Bob Baffert-trained Dortmund also in the mix. The 1 1/16-mile event will serve as a stepping stone to Chrome’s early-season objective, a return tilt at the March 26 Dubai World Cup at Meydan.


Photo courtesy of Los Alamitos via Twitter.