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Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #1: California Chrome

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(Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

Basics:

(Lucky Pulpit x Love the Chase, by Not For Love)

  • Trainer: Alan Sherman
  • Jockey: Victor Espinoza
  • Owned by: DAP Racing
  • Career Record: 14:8-1-0
  • Earnings: $3,542,650

Vital Stats:

  • 2014 Record: 7:5-0-0
  • 2014 accomplishments: Three G1 wins including two three-year-old classics
  • Santa Anita record: 4:3-0-0
  • TrueNicks rating: A Variant 2.26
  • Dosage Index: 3.40
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2014: 113 
  • Lost last prep - 6th, Pennsylvania Derby (II) at 9 furlongs by 7 1/4 lengths

Summary: Arguably the best three-year-old coming into the big race with three G1 victory passes including wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, California Chrome is battle-tested at Santa Anita with possibly one of the most authoritative victories on the soil earlier in the spring when winning the Santa Anita Derby (I) in an easy romp. Since stumbling and becoming injured in the Belmont (I), Chrome appeared to have lost some of his luster returning to action in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (II), finishing 6th of 8. Hopes are high that Chrome can run a big one at his stomping grounds and clinch Horse of the Year honors with just one more win.

Prep Schedule: After a modest but very respectable two-year-old career year, California Chrome wasted little time brandishing his talent on the Triple Crown trail, first cruising over state-breds in the 1 1/16-mile California Cup, winning by more than 6 lengths over G1 winner Tamarando. He countered a bit more class in March in the San Felipe (II), which would be his first try at graded stakes company, effectively outlasting Midnight Hawk and going wire-to-wire to win by more than 7 lengths. Sealing the “real deal” in the Santa Anita Derby (I) a month later at 9 furlongs, California Chrome sat off the pace and floated home to win the Kentucky Derby (I) by 2 1/2 lengths before returning to Pimlico to clinch the Preakness (I). Seemingly unfazed by the rigorous schedule, Chrome took a dive at the start of the Belmont (I) and was too crowded, too weary to do better than 4th, losing the Triple Crown by a scant 2 1/4 lengths. Following a layup, he was shipped to Parx for the Pennsylvania Derby (II), and encountered a speedy field he was seemingly unprepared for, finishing 6th and beaten some 7 lengths.

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Physique: I don’t think I’ve talked more about any other horse’s physique than California Chrome this year, and it’s as full of pluses as it is minuses. This horse has a very easygoing attitude and just pours himself over the track with little concerted effort going into his lead changes with the best stride of the bunch. However, I’m not a total fan of him in general; he’s alright, but appears altogether lacking a “wow” factor I EXPECT UNDERLINE UNDERLINE from a Breeders’ Cup Classic win contender.

Pedigree: Definitively an “X factor” horse, California Chrome is sired by the California stallion Lucky Pulpit, who has thrown some decent but not very many marvelous progeny in his short time at stud. Lucky Pulpit of course, hails from the prolific A.P. Indy family by way of Pulpit, whose influence needs little explanation. Lucky Pulpit was graded stakes-placed at 2 and 3, but did not relish additional ground like his son clearly does. Chrome’s dam side is definitely the most interesting and promising part, as Love the Chase is by Maryland sire Not For Love, a son of G1 winners Mr Prospector and Dance Number. Love the Chase is out of Chase It Down, a daughter of the speedy Polish Numbers, giving her two crosses to champion filly Numbered Account.

Running Style: Directly off the pace, may or may not need to be perfectly positioned there

Pros: Chrome had a dominating effect when sent out on Santa Anita’s main, and save for the disgrace on the Parx surface, how much can one reasonably knock his ability? The Breeders’ Cup has been kind to its homegrown sons and daughters, and with heaping TLC and a watchful eye from Alan Sherman, Chrome gets another shot at the winners’ circle this year.

Cons: His schedule post-TC has been wonky. He was injured, then worked reasonably well only to ship out to be fed to the wolves in what should have been a confidence and fitness booster for this race. If he were any other horse with a similar schedule, he would likely not be even considered. In a nutshell: form.

Final Word: Chrome looked excellent preparing for the Penn Derby, but there was something amiss with him I remember commenting about as he flew around Los Alamitos. He did not seem to be doing it easy, like he did in the spring. He looked absolutely flustered at the start of the Penn Derby, and while I think he could have done better with a better start, it’s not reasonable to demand he have things his way in order to find the front at the top of the stretch. I’ll hope for him to do well, but I would be surprised if he hits the board. With the class boost and the lack of a good race prep after a long layoff, the odds are stacked against Chrome.

Room Service hoses off after the Belmont Oaks (I)

Room Service hoses off after the Belmont Oaks (I)

bigcountry said: Not Norm. Might be Forensic.

Double-checking it now, you’re probably right. The head is pretty close to Norumbega, but the horse is missing certain spots of coloring not to mention other components. Thought I had a real simple ID on my hands, but no… not even with a gray horse.

I’m trying to find out for sure if it’s Forensic, but Equibase isn’t showing me anything that she breezed at Belmont that day (and this one was certainly breezing, not galloping). I know this gray went out with Cloture, who does show up on Equibase for September 27, but nothing past that. Someday maybe I’ll be one of those lucky people with a setlist of everyone coming out.

Norumbega Onus breezing at Belmont Park

Sweet Reason steps out for a morning lap

Sweet Reason steps out for a morning lap

Cozmic One

Cozmic One

"Thanks God for Blessing Me"

"Thanks God for Blessing Me"

Small World

Small World

Critiquing the Contenders: Daredevil

By now, every skeptic has reason to be skeptical of any two-year-old storming out of Todd Pletcher’s barn. This past Derby season, he was loaded to the teeth with Constitution, Intense Holiday, and Danza to name just a few and where are they now? It seems to be a cycle that has been on repeat for some time, which often is the case for big name trainers with enormous payloads. With the “big” two-year-olds coming into beastly form, two names surfaced with smashing performances over the past weekend: Daredevil, winner of the Champagne Stakes (I) at Belmont, and Blofeld, winner of the Belmont Futurity (II) held the next day. 

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Yearling Daredevil was athletic and good-looking (Image courtesy LGS Racing)

I was cautiously optimistic about this one’s chances coming into the Champagne, but he is a really visually appealing colt and ran to his looks in that race. I was witness to runner-up Upstart’s excellent maiden win, and he beat that horse soundly and flattened the rest of the field without digging in deep. I didn’t see anything that worried me too tremendously that he may be distance-limited in the near future, as he won very confidently. However, his record bears an asterisk as he is 2-for-2, but on muddy tracks.

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Verrazano (Image courtesy LGS Racing)

Pedigree-wise, Daredevil may or may not be another Verrazano, who is also by More Than Ready and owned by the same connections. Impressive as a juvenile, Verrazano was built too heavily to convince me that he would want two turns, and while Daredevil doesn’t concern me at this point, things may change. More Than Ready, a brilliant juvenile who went on to win the King’s Bishop (I) at 3 and become a successful sire, throws his best in his progeny’s early years. However, on Daredevil’s dam side there are some gold flecks; dam Chasethewildwind is a daughter of Forty Niner— a son of speedy Mr Prospector, but one who could go the distance and pass that ability on— and out of Chasethewildwind, making him a half brother to millionaire G1 winner Albertus Maximus (an able distance goer, but most effective going 8-9 furlongs). Chasethewildwind is also a half-sister to the dam of Forego (I) winner Here Comes Ben. Chasethewildwind’s dam, Race the Wild Wind, a G1 winner at age 3 and 4.

Next: Blofled

Wonderfully [IRE]

Wonderfully [IRE]

Obsessively providing a comprehensive and personal glance at the sport of kings through original photography, handicapping analysis, editorials, and much more.

Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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