California Chrome holds Dortmund in close San Diego win

Profile Picture: Jen Caldwell

Jen Caldwell

July 24th, 2016

California Chrome hadn’t competed since March 26 while main rival Dortmund was last seen racing November 28. Both chestnuts captured those respective starts and found themselves facing off following the vacations on a sun-drenched Del Mar afternoon in Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego Handicap (G2).

In the end, fans got the race they were hoping for, as the two talented runners left the rest of the field in their wake, battling it out to the wire in the 1 1/16-mile affair.

California Chrome actually got the jump on Dortmund when the gates opened, hopping right to the lead, but soon yielded when his foe slid up beside him on the inside rail. Dortmund proceeded to set reasonable splits of :23.47 and :47.02 under Gary Stevens while California Chrome and regular pilot Victor Espinoza settled into a stalking spot just off his flank.

California Chrome ranged up to run in tandem with Dortmund rounding the turn and had a very slim lead as the duo hit the lane. The five-year-old seemed to inch away a bit, but Dortmund refused to yield and dug in to come back on the inside. They continued dueling all the way to the wire, with California Chrome getting the win by a half-length while stopping the clock in 1:40.84 over the fast main track.

Dortmund was game in defeat, returning in this spot after taking the Native Diver Stakes (G3) last November by 4 1/2 lengths. The 2015 Kentucky Derby third-placer was the 6-5 second choice to California Chrome’s 4-5 favoritism and finished 7 1/4 lengths head of San Diego third Win the Space. Follow Me Crev and Crittenden completed the order under the wire.

Trainer Art Sherman oversaw a three-year-old campaign that ended with California Chrome’s coronation as the 2014 Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old male. The California-bred colt triumphed in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness Stakes (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1), Hollywood Derby (G1) and San Felipe Stakes (G2) with a dead-heat fourth in the Belmont Stakes (G1) and a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) thrown in for good measure.

California Chrome only raced twice last year, as 2015 saw him plagued by minor injuries along with well-publicized comments from owner/breeders Perry Martin and Steve Coburn. He opened his four-year-old season with a runner-up effort in the San Antonio Invitational (G2), then traveled to Meydan, where he finished a nice second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1).

The colt’s travels weren’t even close to being done, as minor problems kept cropping up, and he eventually landed back in the states. Taylor Made Farm bought out Coburn’s interest and the ownership group named themselves California Chrome LLC.

Sherman announced California Chrome would come back for his five-year-old season after being given some time off at Taylor Made Farm near Nicholasville, Kentucky, and the chestnut returned better than ever.

After taking his 2016 debut in the San Pasqual Stakes (G2) on January 9, California Chrome shipped back to Meydan for another go at the Dubai World Cup. This time around, the champion got a win in over the track before romping by 3 3/4 lengths in the World Cup on March 26.

Instead of staying overseas, California Chrome returned to his home state and began preparing for his comeback in the San Diego.

With that score now under his girth, the popular runner will begin readying for his showdown with equally popular multiple champion mare Beholder in the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1) on August 20, a race Beholder captured last year by an effortless 8 1/4 lengths to continue her now eight-race win streak.

California Chrome is out of the Not for Love mare Love the Chase and comes from the same female family as champion Cascapeida.

California Chrome photo courtesy of Benoit Photos