Horse racing, Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita

Chrome proves top 3-year-old in California, maybe nation

ARCADIA —- The rest of the country might not know where the Los Alamitos race track is, but it’s about to find out because the probable favorite for next month’s Kentucky Derby trains there.

California Chrome, the Cal-bred who calls Los Alamitos home when he’s not at a race, showed he is the real deal with a 5¼-length victory over Hoppertunity in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park before 35,241. The 3-year-old covered the 1 1/8 mile on the dirt in 1 minute, 47.52 seconds.

California Chrome, a son of Lucky Pulpit, has destroyed the competition in the Golden State, recording four start victories by a total of 24¼ lengths.

“It was pretty easy for him,” said winning jockey Victor Espinoza, “it wasn’t so easy for me.”

It sure looked easy.

A noted frontrunner, California Chrome ($3.40) was joined on the front end by 33-1 long shot Dublin and 5-2 second choice Candy Boy.

“Everybody had the same idea,” said Espinoza.

Winning trainer Art Sherman never let on that he was worried about the scenario.

“I think he’s a better horse when he’s stalking another horse,” Sherman said.

California Chrome stalked Dublin through fractions of :22.89, :47.02 and 1:10.81. At the head of the stretch, Espinoza hit the button and he was 5 lengths in front, just cruising to another easy victory in his home state.

“It was like Trevor (Denman, track announcer) says,” said Sherman, “ ‘you would need to sprout wings to catch him.’ I love that saying.”

California Chrome was a little slow from the gate, but it didn’t bother the connections.

“He knows what’s going on (when he goes to the gate),” said Espinoza. “He’s calm and focused, but for some reason, we missed the break a tiny bit, but I put him in the race right away. I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic. It worked out well.”

Said Sherman: “I got a little spooked leaving the gate. He got banged around pretty good … Right now he’s kind of freaky and I’m enjoying it. I can’t believe the races I’ve been seeing. A length or two might have been all right with me.

“It was awesome. That’s all I can say.”

Sherman will continue to train California Chrome at Los Alamitos until approximately a week before the May 3 Derby when he ships to Louisville, Ky.

Hoppertunity, trained by Bob Baffert, was coming out of a win at the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

“”He’s a really good horse (California Chrome),” said Baffert of the winner. “I was really happy with my race. I’m glad I ran my horse.”

Trainer John Sadler said third-place Candy Boy will likely head to Kentucky if he has enough points.

In the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, it figured to be a two-filly race and it was as Fashion Plate ($6.20) beat 6-5 favorite Ria Antonia by 1 ¼ lengths. However, both 3-year-olds are expected to run in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, one day before the Kentucky Derby.

Fashion Plate, ridden by Gary Stevens and trained by Simon Callaghan, went to the front and never looked back covering the 1 1/16-mile in 1:42.97.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter


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