Trainer Art Sherman said his colt California Chrome would be able to handle turf, and he was right as the colt was an impressive winner of the $300,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) on Saturday at Del Mar, making him the frontrunner for Horse of the Year honors with his fourth Grade 1 race in 2014.
Sent off as the overwhelming favorite in a field of six, the colt broke sharply and had the lead, but jockey Victor Espinoza allowed the colt to settle with Sawyer’s Hill sent up to set the early fractions.
“I thought the other horse would go, but I was ready for most anything happening there at the beginning,” Espinoza said. “I let the other horse go by going into the first turn and I was happy right where I was. He was going easy. Then when we got to the far turn, he was ready to roll. Oh, was he ready to roll. He just turned it on and I knew we were home. You can see now that grass is no problem.”
The colt ranged up on the far turn to take command as Sawyer’s Hill began to drop back and the colt went on to win by two measured lengths over the filly Lexie Lou, returning $3.40 and completing a $2 exacta that paid $9.80.
California Chrome Wins Hollywood Derby
Owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, the colt snapped a three race losing streak and gave him his fourth Grade 1 of the year. The colt won the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness before having his Triple Crown derailed in a fourth place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
After coming back off a 3 ½ month break with a dull sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), the colt bounced back with a strong effort in a third place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) where he was beaten just a nose and a neck.
Although he was beaten by Bayern twice, the colt is likely going to have the edge among Eclipse voters for top three-year-old and Horse of the Year. The colt was the only runner this year to win a Grade 1 race on dirt and turf.
The feel good story of the year in horse racing ended at Belmont Park, complete with Coburn unleashing an embarassing tirade after the race which he later apologized for.
Fans appeared to have forgotten, as Coburn was treated like a rock star when he arrived in the paddock before the horses, getting a rousing applause along with chants for his horse.
Steve Coburn Interview
The colt came out of his victory in fine fashion. Sherman told The Daily Racing Form, “He came out of the race real good. His knees and ankles are nice and tight. I couldn’t be happier.”
Now proven on turf at the Grade 1 level, his connections have plenty of options for his 2015 campaign.
“We’ve got a lot of options,” Sherman said. “Royal Ascot wants us to come over to England. They said ‘We’ll treat you royally.’ And we’ve got Dubai (World Cup) in March. That’s another option. We’re going to definitely run him another year. And he’s a good shipper. He gets on an airplane like he’s a frequent flier.”
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