California Chrome, North America’s all-time earnings leader, delighted Santa Anita’s crowd on Saturday. Chrome was the natural favorite for the Awesome Again Stakes in which he once again faced Bob Baffert-trained Dortmund. The two drew post positions next to each other, Chrome in the number one spot, Dortmund in the number two. And, that was the order in which they finished.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano positioned Dortmund right beside Chrome early on in the 1 1/8 mile contest. The two distanced themselves from rest of the field, at one point by more than ten lengths. California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza were not fazed by Dortmund’s pressure, pulling away at the half-mile pole. Just before the turn for home, Espinoza gave one look back at Dortmund and the fast approaching Win the Space. But, Chrome needed no urging from Espinoza to keep going to the win.
California Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman, was pleased by Chrome’s run, characterizing the champion thoroughbred as “a pleasure to train.” 79-year-old Sherman, who began his thoroughbred racing career in the 1950s, was also a bit nostalgic, stating, “I just wish my old buddies were here to see this.”
Two races later, the Zenyatta Stakes offered a third meeting between mares Beholder and Stellar Wind. The two previously competed in the Vanity Stakes at Santa Anita on June 4 (Beholder won) and Del Mar’s Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on July 30 (Stellar Wind won).
Six-year-old Beholder, with jockey Gary Stevens aboard, led for the majority of the 1 1/16 mile distance. At the start of the stretch for home, it looked like Beholder would successfully pull away from four-year-old Stellar Wind. But, rider Victor Espinoza had Stellar Wind keep up the pressure, winning by just a head over Beholder.
Saturday’s program at Santa Anita included five Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” stakes races. In addition to the Awesome Again and the Zenyatta, there was the FrontRunner (won by trainer John Shirreffs’ Gormley), the Rodeo Drive (won by trainer Richard Mandella’s Avenge), and the Chandelier (won by trainer Bob Baffert’s Noted and Quoted). Jockey Victor Espinoza rode three of the five winners (Gormley, California Chrome, and Stellar Wind), setting him up for quite a busy Breeders’ Cup race card! The FrontRunner and the Chandelier featured two-year-olds who will be watched both in November 5’s Breeders’ Cup juvenile races and also in the 2017 Kentucky Derby and Oaks.