While California Chrome has justifiably captured the hearts and minds of the racing world, once the gates open for the 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs next Saturday, all the hype goes out the window and it’s every man for himself.

Gary Stevens is one of those men. He will be riding Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy, who, like most of the other 3-year-olds caught in the wake of the California Chrome frenzy, has been flying under the radar, so to speak, especially since being beaten nearly nine lengths by California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

But that’s not the view of Gary Stevens. Not after Saturday’s five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs in 1:00.64 with Stevens up.

“After yesterday’s work, he’s not flying under the radar so much,” Stevens said Sunday morning, back at Santa Anita, where he is named on two horses today, including Theatre Star for trainer Tom Proctor in the Grade III Wilshire Stakes.

“It was an impressive work visually and it was an impressive work being on his back. You always wonder how they’re going to get over that strip. It’s not something you can teach them. They either handle it or they don’t.

“Sometimes you don’t find out until you come out of the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby, if they haven’t worked on it. I don’t know if it was important for Candy Boy to work over the track or not, but it sure eased my mind, and John’s (trainer John Sadler) and everyone else’s. I’m real happy with where he’s at right now.”

Stevens has won the Derby three times, but still considers it one of the two most difficult races to win.

“Yes,” Stevens answered succinctly and swiftly. “The Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Just trip-wise, I would say they are probably the two most difficult races to win.”

As to the hoopla surrounding California Chrome, the media-savvy Stevens (he was racing analyst for HRTV and NBC, and earned critical acclaim for his acting debut in the 2003 hit film, “Seabiscuit,”) recognizes its value.

“It’s great for California racing, especially,” Stevens said. “It’s a great story, with Art (77-year-old trainer Art Sherman), his owners (and breeders, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin) and the horse training out of Los Alamitos. That’s a story in itself.

“To me, it’s a huge stamp of approval for Los Alamitos. California Chrome training over there, that’s a whole different fan base, so it’s cool.”

Cool as chrome in a literal sense, but hot as ‘Chrome’ in every other.


Santa Anita will offer exciting live racing to supplement the simulcasts from Churchill Downs of both the Kentucky Oaks and Derby Day programs on Friday and Saturday. First live race post time at Santa Anita on Oaks Day, Friday, is at 12:30 p.m. First live race post time on Derby Day, Saturday, is at 11:30 a.m. Santa Anita admission gates will open on both Friday and Saturday at 7:15 a.m.

The Great Race Place will host the biggest Derby party west of Kentucky. A Derby Hat Contest will be held offering more than $1,000 in cash prizes; and a Bluegrass Party will have live music, craft beers and a variety of popular food trucks in the Infield.

In addition, the Chrome Zone package is available on line at A $10 ticket includes General Admission and trackside seating in the Chrome Zone (on the track apron); a track program, and a tip sheet.

Special packages are available on line at Use promo code INFIELD for a 50 percent discount.
CORRECTION: Santa Anita Park will NOT be guaranteeing the late Pick 4 for Saturday, May 3.

FINISH LINES: Alex Solis Jr., son of jockey Alex Solis, was understandably proud of his father after he was elected to the Hall of Fame Thursday. “He’s really excited,” young Solis said, “but it’s an honor more than anything else. He’s happy that it finally happened.” . . . Under the supervision of Santa Anita’s Director of Community Services & Special Projects Pete Siberell, a television crew from France-based Eurosport was on hand at Santa Anita Sunday, filming a documentary for a show called “Sports Insiders” on multiple Winter Olympic medal-winning ski champion Bode Miller, who owns an unraced 3-year-old Flatter colt named Steep N Deep trained by Tim Yakteen. Steep N Deep worked five furlongs on the main track Sunday in 59.60 . . . Among the 170 workers on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday were stakes winners Sahara Sky, Let Faith Arise and Scherzinger for Jerry Hollendorfer, and on turf, stakes winners Miss Serendipity, Nashoba’s Gold, Jeranimo, Winning Prize and Obviously.