California Chrome shines in $1 million Santa Anita Derby
Continuing his brilliant march to the May 3 Kentucky Derby, California Chrome pulled away in the stretch and won Saturdays Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby by 5 1/4 lengths.
It was the fourth straight dominant victory for California Chrome, who is trained by longtime Bay Area racing participant Art Sherman.
Its kind of spooky, Sherman said in a television interview after Saturdays race. I see horses win by a length or two but not draw away.
California Chrome won his previous start by 7 1/4 lengths in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, which followed victories by 5 1/2 and 6 1/4 lengths in two stakes restricted to California-breds.
Barring any unforeseen development, California Chrome will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Sherman, who trained in Northern California from 1979 to 2008 and who was a jockey for 23 years before that.
Shermans older son, Steve, still trains at Golden Gate Fields, while Art and younger son Alan operate in Southern California.
California Chrome will seek to become the first California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962. Sherman was an 18-year-old exercise rider for the California-bred Swaps, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1955. Morvich was the first Cal-bred to win the Derby, in 1922.
They just kept saying hes a Cal-bred, but he doesnt know hes a Cal-bred, co-owner Steve Coburn said. He just loves to run.
Unlike the San Felipe Stakes, in which California Chrome broke like a rocket to the lead, he lunged and was bumped out of the gate Saturday and was momentarily in fifth place.
But jockey Victor Espinoza quickly got him into stride, and he eased into second place behind longshot Dublin Up. California Chrome had Candy Boy to his outside down the backstretch but pulled away from him and overtook Dublin Up on the second turn.
California Chrome finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.52 - the races fastest time since Indian Charlie clocked 1:47.00 in 1998 - and paid $3.40 as the 7-to-10 favorite in the field of eight. Hoppertunity, coming off of a victory in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at the Fair Grounds, finished second, and Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy was third.
Larry Stumes is a freelance writer.