California Chrome turns Pacific Classic into a runaway

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TwinSpires Staff

August 21st, 2016


California Chrome popped the gate and never gave them a chance.

In what was considered by many to be the strongest rendition ever of the $1 million Pacific Classic (G1), it was a one-horse race from start to finish. Victor Espinoza broke like a shot, took a commanding early lead and romped home to an easy five-length win to capture the lions’ share of Del Mar’s premier summer race.

When California Chrome drew the rail on Tuesday afternoon many folks questioned what tactics his connections would deploy in the Classic, but those were put to rest once the gates sounded when Espinoza said to himself “You know what, I’m going to send out of here. I’m going to send hard out of the gate.”

Before the field crossed the wire for the first time, Chrome had built a significant early lead and drifted out several paths. He then angled in, remained in command of his rivals down the backstretch and on the far turn before drawing away in the stretch without consideration of the whip. It was a dazzling performance in front of a crowd of 24,155 Southern California racing fans.

In post-race commentary, Espinoza had high praise for the five-year-old champion, declaring, “He’s just an amazing horse. He won so easy today. I’m going to say this now- this is the best horse I’ve ever ridden…..The way he’s running now he could beat anyone, anytime….He’s just so special.”

The win was the first in the Pacific Classic for both Espinoza and trainer Art Sherman who thought to himself “It’s all over” when he saw the hold Victor had on him while just cruising on the lead. He continued, “What can you say about him; he’s just a super horse. That’s why he’s the best horse in the country.”

The champion mare Beholder was no match for the winner, but ran valiantly nonetheless to finish second. As planned, Gary Stevens changed tactics after being narrowly defeated in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) last month. The Hall of Fame jockey stalked the pace throughout, but when she was called upon she did not have what it took to stick with the all-time money leader in North American racing.

After the race, Stevens praised his mare despite being unable to win back-to-back versions of the Pacific Classic. “She ran a great race. I was hoping she’d have that huge kick again like she did last year, but not this time. But it was a gutty performance from her.”

Stevens was quick to compliment Chrome stating, “Victor was playing with us. I don’t think he really let him run. That’s scary to think about. Hats off to California Chrome.”

Beholder’s Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella was also proud of his daughter of Henny Hughes and quick to praise the winner and his trainer. “She ran really good; just second best. I went over and told Art that he did a fabulous job with his horse. He’s always been a great horsemen, I’m just sorry it was at my expense.”

The 5-2-second choice, Dortmund, was a well-beaten third with stablemate Hoppertunity finishing fourth. The mile and a quarter was completed in a time of 2:00.13.

The winner paid $4.20, $2.60 and $2.20. Beholder paid $3.20 and $2.60 and Dortmund returned $2.40 to show. The winning trifecta combination of 1-7-8 returned $6.20 on a 50-cent wager.

California Chrome boosted his career bankroll to $13,252,650.

Photo by Scott Shapiro