California Chrome has drawn 1 for his run in the $300,000 Gr1 Awesome Again Stakes, to be run over 1 1/8 mile at Santa Anita on Saturday, 1 October 2016. The 2014 Horse Of The Year vanned in to Santa Anita Park last Sunday to settle in ahead of what is likely to be his final prep run ahead of the $6 million Gr1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on 5 November.
The 5yo son of Lucky Pulpit remains unbeaten this season and he is on a 5-race winning streak which kicked off with an impressive victory in the Gr2 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita on 9 January 2016. He then flew to the UAE, posting back to back wins at Meydan in the Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy on 25 February and the Dubai World Cup on 26 March before adding the Gr2 San Diego Handicap and the Gr1 Pacific Classic ‘Brawl at the Beach’ at Del Mar on 20 August 2016.
Saturday’s Santa Anita card offers five Gr1 races, each carrying Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” status. California Chrome has already earned a berth to the Breeders’ Cup with his TVG Pacific Classic victory, but as an incentive for Chrome to prepare for the Breeders’ Cup in Southern California, Del Mar and Santa Anita’s owner The Stronach Group announced a $1 million bonus to any horse who could sweep the Pacific Classic, Awesome Again, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. After his recent 5-length Pacific Classic win, Chrome is a third of the way there.
Joe Morris, head of West Coast Operations for the Stronach Group said, “At this point, he has truly become a superstar in our game and we want to thank his owners, Perry Martin and Taylor Made Farm, as well as Art Sherman, for making the commitment to run here on Oct. 1. This is going to be huge for our fans and for our sport.”
Trainer Art Sherman admitted that the bonus certainly caught their attention, but was quick to add that the schedule suited his charge. “A million dollars is a million dollars, but if the horse wasn’t training right, we wouldn’t be running. To me, it’s just perfect timing at this stage to have these preps here for the Breeders’ Cup. I think it’s a big advantage not having to travel. Anytime you have to go across the country from hot weather to cold weather, it can be difficult. It means a lot to be able to train over the surface like we do. I think we’re at an advantage being in California going into these races.”
On being drawn on the rail yet again, Sherman commented, “I don’t know what to think. I get tired of getting the 1 hole, but there’s nothing you can do about it now. He’ll come out of there running, but if Dortmund wants the lead, we’ll let him go.”
Jumping from the inside post in a 1 1/4-mile race like the Pacific Classic is a different prospect to a 1 1/8-mile event, especially with Bob Baffert charge Dortmund in post 2. The massive son of Big Brown served up the toughest test of Chrome’s current campaign, falling short by half length after the two horses duelled stride for stride in the home stretch of the 1 1/16-mile Gr2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on 23 July.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano has been named to ride Dortmund for the second time after following instructions and holding him back off the pace in the Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar. Dortmund also dons blinkers for just the second time in his career (the first being back in November 2014, when he won his debut as a 2-year-old going 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita by 4 3/4 lengths).
“I think I’ve got the best horse in the country,” Sherman said. “I might be a little prejudiced about it, but, you know, he’s done about everything a horse could do. We’ve travelled all over the country, abroad, and we’ve never ducked anybody, and it’s been a hard journey. He really can’t prove anything more to me. I think right now you’re going to wind up seeing him the rest of the year at his peak.”
Owned by California Chrome LLC, a partnership consisting of Perry and Denise Martin, Taylor Made Farm, and several prominent breeders, the 5-year-old California-bred is the richest racehorse in training today with current earnings of $13,252,650 with a few more races to go before he is retired from racing.
Tentative plans call for the big chestnut to conclude his racing career in the $12 million Gr1 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on 28 January 2017 after which Chrome is expected to take up stud duty at Taylor Made in Kentucky. However, Sherman mentioned that there is a race on the calendar between the Breeders’ Cup and the Pegasus World Cup that might fit the connections’ plans.
“It’s really too early to commit to anything. We’ll see how he comes out of the Breeders’ Cup, and go from there. He could train up to that race just as easy, I don’t have any worries about keeping him fit.”
However, for now the focus remains on Saturday’s race and the veteran trainer is bringing in family from all over the country and even reserved a suite to ensure that he doesn’t miss any of the action. Sherman said, “It’s always great to be back at Santa Anita, I just think it’s the world’s most beautiful racetrack. We have such a great card Saturday; I’m getting here early so I can watch all the races. We have a suite for that day and my family is coming from all over; it’s going to be nice.”