ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 6, 2016)–Idle since collecting a tidy $2 million in running second in the Dubai World Cup March 28, trainer Art Sherman’s superstar California Chrome heads a field of eight older horses going 1 1/16 miles in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita.
With regular rider Victor Espinoza up, the 5-year-year-old California-bred horse by Lucky Pulpit worked six furlongs before Santa Anita’s first race this past Saturday in a scintillating 1:10.04.
“He’s the best he’s ever been since I’ve had him,” proclaimed Sherman on Saturday. “He looks ready to me. I got him (galloping out) in 1:22.20 for seven eighths. If he has a good trip (in the San Pasqual), he’ll be tough to beat. He hasn’t run in nine months and there’s nothing like a having a race, but working like this in front of the public is the next-best thing.”
A winner of four Grade I stakes in 2014; the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Hollywood Derby, the speedy chestnut, who will stand at stud in 2017 at Taylor Made Stallions in Kentucky, has three wins from six local starts and has an overall mark of 18-9-3-1, with earnings of $6,322,650.
California Chrome’s primary challenger is clearly multiple graded stakes winner, Hoppertunity, who comes off a close second in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Clark Handicap Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs. Trained by Bob Baffert, the 5-year-old horse by Any Given Saturday was second, beaten 5 ¼ lengths by “Chrome” in the 2014 Santa Anita Derby and was again no match for him in the Grade II San Antonio Invitational on Feb. 7, 2015, finishing 6 ½ lengths behind his California-bred counterpart, who himself was beaten 1 ½ lengths by Shared Belief.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Hoppertunity has proven adept rallying from far back or attending the early pace. With two wins from four tries at 1 1/16 miles, Hoppertunity is 16-4-6-2 overall with earnings of $1,548,675.
An upset winner of Santa Anita’s Grade I Gold Cup June 27, deep closer Hard Aces will make his first start since well beaten in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Oct. 31. Trained by John Sadler and owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, the 6-year-old horse by Hard Spun will hope for a hot pace with Joe Talamo up.
The complete field for the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes, to be run as the eighth race on a nine-race program Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Alfa Bird, Tyler Baze, 119; Blingo, Alex Solis, 119; Point Piper, Rafael Bejarano, 119; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 119; Hoppertunity, Martin Garcia, 121; Hard Aces, Joe Talamo, 121; Mystery Train, Mike Smith, 119, and Imperative, Mario Gutierrez, 119.
First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.