DEL MAR, Calif. (Aug. 20, 2016) --California-bred California Chrome, all-time leading money-winner in North America, embellished his growing stature as one of the finest Thoroughbreds to grace the racing scene in recent times with a brilliant triumph in the Grade I $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Saturday.
Sent to the lead by jockey Victor Espinoza from his inside post position in the opening strides, the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit cruised along in front setting comfortable fractions of :23.20, 47.29, 1:11.22 and 1:35.69 in the mile and one-quarter race.
“Before the race, no matter what strategy I have, everything changes when the gate opens," said Espinoza. "So, right when I was behind the gate I thought ‘You know what, I’m going to send out of here. I’m going to send hard out of the gate and then move out just a little toward the middle of the track. I tapped California Chrome a couple of times and I was surprised I opened up two or three lengths right away. By that time I was very confident and happy. That’s where I won. The fractions weren’t that slow, the pace was pretty good. But he was doing it comfortable and I didn’t want to take him out of the race after I sent him out of the gate.
Turning into the stretch, California Chrome opened up on his rivals, including defending champion Beholder and highly-regarded Dortmund, and never was in danger, romping to the wire five lengths in front in 2:00.13. Beholder, piloted by Gary Stevens, turned in a typically valiant effort to be second, two and one-quarter lengths in front of Dortmund, with Hoppertunity fourth in the field of nine horses.
California Chrome, owned by the California Chrome LLC of co-breeders Perry Martin and Taylormade Farm and trained by Art Sherman, was the 11-10 favorite and paid $4.20, $2.60 and $2.20 while earning $600,000 with his 14th victory in 23 starts. The 2014 Horse of the Year now has bankrolled $13,252,650 in his career. Beholder, off at 3-1, paid $3.20 and $2.60, while Dortmund, the 2-1 second choice, returned $2.40 to show.
“I saw the hold Victor had on him and he was just cruising. I thought ‘It’s all over,’" said Sherman. "She (Beholder) was driving to catch him and I knew that if Victor had to get after him he was just going to rebreak and pull away. What can you say about him he’s just a super horse. That’s why he’s the best horse in the country.
"When you get a couple of horses (like California Chrome and Beholder) in the same race – when do you ever see that? The mare run a hell of a race, she’s a nice mare. But I looked at the field she run against last year and I said, ‘She’s hooked up a different horse.' So I felt pretty confident."
The winner ended an 0-15 Pacific Classic drought for Espinoza, the historic 2015 Triple Crown winner astride American Pharoah.
“He’s just an amazing horse," said Espinoza. "He won so easy today. I’m going to say this now – this is the best horse I’ve ever ridden. I just wanted to get out there and see what was going to happen. He was going well the whole trip. He was in a perfect rhythm. The way he’s running now he could beat anyone, anytime. He’s run on dirt. He’s won on grass. He has won all over the world. He’s just so, so special.”
The TVG Pacific Classic is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifying race. Thus, California Chrome ensured a spot in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita.
With his triumph in the Pacific Classic, California Chrome, already the top-ranked older horse in America, strengthened his position to be acclaimed Horse of the Year for a second time.
“I’ve been around horses all my life. There’s a lot of attributes that make California Chrome great, but his mind is one of them," said Duncan Taylor, president and CEO of Taylor Made. "He’s the smartest horse I’ve ever seen and that’s what sets him apart. He can do whatever you want him to do. He’s the most intelligent horse I’ve ever been around.”