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Posted by on 4/8/2014 10:31:32 PM

California Chrome looked like a winner as soon as the gates opened in the Santa Anita Derby Saturday and online sports betting site players now have a legit reference point as the Kentucky Derby approaches.

The son of Lucky Pulpit broke a tad slowly, was a head off the lead after a half-mile in :47.02 and was the same margin back after three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.81.

And then the race was over. California Chrome quickly ignited to open up a 5-length lead at the top of the lane and stretched it another quarter of a length getting the 9 furlongs in 1:47.52 under a strong hold while not being asked for his best.

Bob Baffert???s Hoppertunity gave chase to finish 2nd, 3 and a half-lengths in front of a disappointing Candy Boy.

This was the fastest Santa Anita Derby since Indian Charlie went 1:47 flat in 1998 and California Chrome final time was also quicker than Sunday Silence and Winning Colors, who both went on to win in Kentucky the first Saturday in May.

And to consider that California Chrome was geared down makes his victory even more impressive. Chrome looks to be the early favorite America???s most famous race.

Art Sherman trains California Chrome and he has been around the block and back. He was the exercise rider for the 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps, who was also a California-bred.

Sherman : ???He???s my Swaps, let???s put it that way. If all goes well, we???ll ship to Kentucky probably a week before the Derby. It was awesome. That???s all I can say. I got a little spooked leaving the gate. He got banged around pretty good but I really think he???s a better horse stalking. Right now, he???s kind of freaky and I???m enjoying it. I can???t believe the races I???ve been seeing.???

He better believe it and if there were many doubters before, they are now witnesses.

The hardest thing for California Chrome???s connections now will be just to keep the horse happy. Don???t try to change any of the routines, try to make sure the runner eats up his grub and attempt to keep him fit with some light maintenance gallops and ordinary works. He is battle-tested, something that has not been all the rage in recent years with Derby horses, but he seems to be getting better and having tactical speed is a huge advantage.

California Chrome has won his last 4 races by a total of 24 and a quarter lengths.

A total of 7 runners have accomplished the SA Derby /KY Derby double including the 2012 hero I???ll Have Another.

Other prominent winners include Swaps and Affirmed.

When California Chrome won the San Felipe the buzz was loud and clear.

This was the fastest San Felipe since 2005 when Consolidator set the stake record of 1:40.11. California Chrome earned a 107 Beyer Speed Figure.

California Chrome will be trying to be the first California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962.

Several runners over the years have used the San Felipe as a gauge to winning the Kentucky Derby.

Determine pulled off the double in 1954 and Fusaichi Pegasus was the last runner to win both races in 2000.

At the age of 77, Sherman will not be in awe over the hype of the Derby and that is a story that will only build.

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