The much anticipated return of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome is coming up on Saturday at Santa Anita in the $200,000 San Pasqual (G3).
A 10-month absence from the racetrack along with the emergence of Triple Crown American Pharoah put the plucky colt on the back pages, but his 2016 campaign gets underway at Santa Anita, and it got a little easier with the defection of Dortmund.
Trainer Bob Baffert did not care much for Dortmund’s last work on Sunday where he breezed seven furlongs in 1:25 4/5 at Santa Anita. Baffert will now wait for the $500,000 San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 6. His main goal is the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on March 12.
California Chrome will head to Dubai after the San Pasqual with a return to the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) the goal. The colt ran second in the world’s richest race last year.
Last year’s Dubai World Cup was his last start, with injuries knocking him out of a race at Royal Ascot, then he missed the Arlington Million (G1) and finally the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
On Saturday California Chrome put in his final major work for the San Pasqual, drilling six furlongs in 1:10.04 with jockey Victor Espinoza in the irons.
California Chrome’s Jan. 2 workout:
Trainer Art Sherman was very pleased with the morning work. “He’s the best he’s ever been since I’ve had him,” said Sherman. “He looks ready to me. I got him (galloping out) in 1:22.20 for seven eighths. If he has a good trip, he’ll be tough to beat. He hasn’t run in nine months and there’s nothing like having a race, but working like this in front of the public is the next-best thing.”
“He’s training good, acting good. He’s a lot different horse right now. He’s stronger and he’s more focused,” Sherman added.
Sherman has had the colt back since October and the 2014 Kentucky Derby has posted six published workouts.
With Dortmund out the colt likely will face six rivals in his return race on Saturday: Alfa Bird, Blingo, Hard Aces, Hoppertunity, Mystery Train and Point Piper.
His main foes appear to be Blingo, who has lost four in a row since taking last year’s San Antonio (G2) and Hoppertunity, who was a good second in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs behind Effinex on Nov. 27. The Bob Baffert trainee is the defending champion of the San Pasqual.
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