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California Dreaming

Posted by on 3/12/2014 9:34:01 PM

Half the battle of any job is just to show up and do the work and that is just what California Chrome did on Saturday at Santa Anita running away and hiding in the $300,000 Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes.

The race lost a little steam when Bayern, who would have been favored, was scratched but take nothing away from the son of Lucky Pulpit.

With Bayern out California Chrome polished his rivals from the get go making the lead after a :23.09 quarter. He had a half-length lead at both the half-mile and after 6 furlongs. He had a 4 and a half-length lead at the top of the lane after a mile in 1:33.94 and finished off the 8 and a half furlongs in 1:40.59.

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.

Before Saturday, California Chrome had won three stakes in his career at distances from 5 and a half to 8 and a half furlongs and he was flattered when the horse he just beat by over 5 and a half lengths in his 2014 opener, Tamarando, returned to loop the El Camino Derby field winning by a half-length with a 91 Beyer. The important test he passed was winning in open company as his other victories were against California-breds.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, who knows something about a good horse as he guided War Emblem to victory in the 2002 Kentucky Derby, let the horse do the talking, Espinoza: “He ran like I expected him to. I wanted to try something new today, so I let him go right out of the gate. In these races, you can’t just try and do too much with them. I think it’s important for him to do his thing for the first five-eighths and be happy.

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.

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

Like any good horseman, California Chrome’s trainer will let his horse guide him, Sherman: “He came out of the race good. I’m not making any plans, you know what I mean? I’m in the Derby now; I’ve got enough points. I’m just going to play it by ear. There is a chance we might go in the Santa Anita Derby.”

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. Triple Crown winner Affirmed used this race as a stepping-stone in his premier year.

Sunday Silence won the San Felipe in 1989 before succeeding in Kentucky and Fusaichi Pegasus was the last runner to win both races in 2000.

For Sherman and California Chrome’s connections, it’s now just a waiting game trying to keep the horse happy and healthy in the next several weeks.

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