California Chrome Is Still Thrilling Racing Fans


August 11, 2016

Fred Altieri

California Chrome edges out Dortmund by a half-length

California Chrome. What else needs to be said? Two years after running away with the 2014 American Horse of the Year honors the chestnut-hued thoroughbred with four white feet is still sending Southern California horse racing fans into a screaming frenzy like few others can.

"We're coming into the race good and hoping that we have a good trip. You're always worried the first time back off of a layoff. California Chrome has been training forwardly and he's won a lot of races doing that," said Chrome trainer Art Sherman following the horse's Friday morning workout on July 22 at Del Mar Racetrack.

Sherman's words were prophetic. In what could be touted as the Race of the Year California Chrome ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza pulled off another spectacular victory in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar Racetrack on Saturday, July 23. It was a heavyweight prizefight that became an instant classic.

California Chrome, the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, went toe-to-toe with Dortmund, a magnificent athlete ridden by Gary Stevens with only two previous losses. The result was unbridled action-packed pressure that exploded in ecstasy at the finish line. It was horse racing at its best.

"Chrome ran an awesome race. It was like a heavyweight battle. Neither one of the horses was going to give in," said Alan Sherman, who trains Chrome with his father, Art.

"(Bob) Baffert's horse, Dortmund, is a really good horse. You don't win 10 out of 12 races and get beat only in the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness if you're not a good horse."

It should be noted that Dortmund lost both races in 2015 to eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh. With several interesting twists the jockey on American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert, was the same Victor Espinoza. Dortmund also trained at Los Alamitos Race Course this past spring, home of Sherman Racing and California Chrome since February 2014.

Dortmund immediately stormed out of the gate to take the lead closely shadowed by Chrome on the outside although the Sherman's would have liked a friendlier pace for their horse. Alan Sherman: "We'd rather sit and relax a little. But we pushed him from the word "Go."

"We had to keep pressure on Dortmund so he wouldn't get out there and relax, have an easy lead. When you give a good horse an easy lead... they don't slow down. You've got to speed up to beat them. They'll run fast the whole way around there. You just have to hope that you can run a bit faster that last 1/8 of a mile."

"I think at the 3/8 pole when Victor latched on to him on top of Dortmund is probably where he won the race. He was always within a half-length of Dortmund. He never let Dortmund relax."

California Chrome took a fraction of a lead moving from the outside into the homestretch. The sun-splashed crowd's excitement matched the intensity on the track as both horses ran neck-and-neck for the last 1/4 mile, Dortmund relentless on the inside. The din reached a crescendo as Chrome just edged out Dortmund by a half-length.

"Victor rode a great race. If we hadn't pushed Chrome we would have never caught Dortmund. So we had to put a little pressure on him, which is a little bit out of Chrome's realm."

Art Sherman: "Sometimes I won't have to drill him as hard. Once he gets fit everything just kind of maintains itself. It doesn't make any difference as to what type of track he's on. He's been all over the world. He's pretty cool."

Alan Sherman: "Dortmund hadn't run in eight months. We hadn't run since March. I think it was fair to give Chrome five pounds more than Dortmund. That will be the last handicap that Chrome runs in. The rest of the races are Weight for Age so he won't have to give up any more weight from here on."

California Chrome won his previous race, the Dubai World Cup, on March 26, also coming from the outside for a four-length victory. The $6 million prize pushed the five-year old's total earnings to $12.4 million, making him America's highest-earning racehorse in history.

"He's the leading horse in North America and I think he's third all-time in the world. You don't even think about that kind of thing when you have any horse: "Maybe we can be the winningest horse of all time." You always hope but you don't think about that kind of stuff," added Alan Sherman.

Art Sherman: "Money value. He's won all the big races over the country and the world. He's won the biggest race that ever was. He went from a two-year old, a three-year old, four and five, and he's still here. That's a tribute to him. This will be his last year.

"We have nothing to prove anymore. He's the highest earner ever for thoroughbreds in the United States. That's quite an honor. We're just looking forward to adding more. If he does, that's great. But he really doesn't have anything to prove."

California Chrome is in the final stretch of his remarkable racing career. There are only four races scheduled before he starts studding at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky for a syndicate called California Chrome LLC. First, he'll run at Del Mar one last time in the Pacific Classic on August 20.

Next is the Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park on October 1 followed by the Breeder's Cup Classic also at Santa Anita on November 5. Chrome's final race will be the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida on January 28, billed as the world's richest thoroughbred race.

Alan Sherman: "It's definitely a team effort. It's just not me. It's not just my dad. It's just not Victor. It's not just the owners. It's not just Raul, the groom. It's everybody involved, just putting our heads together, everyone being on the same page in doing what's right by the horse.

"We've been lucky enough to be able to do that. Chrome loves to train. He loves his job. So it makes our job easy. He's just a phenomenal racehorse. Chrome has just been a blessing for Sherman Racing and he's definitely been a life-changer for us."

Fred Altieri

California Chrome's jockey Victor Espinoza waves to the crowd following victory in the San Diego Handicap


Reader Comments

tatyakutis writes:

As someone who knows this team well, thank you for the nice coverage. Oh by the way, I'm a Culver City resident!


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