Chrome by 12, onto the Pegasus!
Story and photo by Scott Shapiro
In a race written to prepare the star five-year-old for his final career start next month in Florida, 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome easily disposed of an overmatched group of California based rivals in the inaugural Winter Challenge on Saturday.
As expected, the event at Los Alamitos that compensated every horse that finished the race $10,000 ended up being little more than a paid workout for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up.
Despite the lack of competition, the mile and a sixteenth prep should set Chrome up well for a potential rematch with Arrogate on January 28 at Gulfstream Park in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, a race that trainer Art Sherman wants badly.
In post-race commentary he did not deny the desire for revenge stating, “I want Arrogate bad. I have something in my heart that says Chrome can beat him.”
In the Winter Challenge, Sherman instructed jockey Victor Espinoza to keep California Chrome in the clear and Espinoza executed the game plan perfectly, opting to take him off the pace, unlike his other 2016 starts in the States where he was prominently placed early on. Despite an extremely wide voyage throughout the much of the race, the crowd favorite moved to the front when asked and won without being asked.
Jerry Hollendorfer’s Point Piper also came from off the pace and, while he was no match for the winner, was clearly second best. In his first try over the main track since early 2015, Papacoolpapacool closed late to complete the trifecta that paid $23 on a $1 wager.
While the Winter Challenge provided California Chrome with little in the way of competition, it did allow his loyal fans to see their favorite Thoroughbred run one final time in his home state. A crowd of 5,023 was on hand to see him dominate nine rivals, as well as pay him a farewell after what has been an amazing career for the modestly bred son of Lucky Pulpit.
Hopefully Chrome comes out of the race well and is ready for the Pegasus and a potential rematch with the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner.