California Chrome ran his last race in the Golden State on Saturday, December 17. California’s native son, who has called Los Alamitos Race Course home for almost three years, ran his first and only race over the track where he normally trains. Chrome gave a great showing, not only winning but also setting a track record time.
Trainer Art Sherman chose to enter Chrome in Saturday’s 1 1/16 mile Winter Challenge Stakes as a “warm up.” Chrome, North America’s top winning horse (over $14million in purses), is slated to face other top thoroughbreds in January 28’s $12million, 1 1/8 mile Pegasus Stakes at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.
Nine other horses took on the favorite in the Winter Challenge, part of Los Alamitos’ eight day thoroughbred meet. Chrome drew the outside post of number 10. After the gates opened, jockey Victor Espinoza and Chrome found themselves blocked from making much inward movement by Presidentsky and Lucky J Lane. Along the back straightaway, Espinoza gave fans some anxiety when he let Chrome ease back while Howdy, Wrightwood, Presidentsky and Lucky J Lane battled for the lead.
But, worry was unnecessary. Espinoza had a winning strategy in mind. As the far turn came up, he asked Chrome to move. And, the champ did, strongly entering the stretch for home, despite still being wide.
Chrome passed eventual second place finisher Point Piper to win by eight lengths in 1:40:03. No place or show betting had been offered due to Chrome’s 1-9 odds. The majority of the field was at 99-1, the exceptions being previous stakes winners Point Piper and Avanti Bello (which both still had double digit odds).
As twilight approached, Chrome and Espinoza were greeted by grandstand chants of “Chrome” as they headed back to the winner’s circle. On hand were co-owner/breeder Perry Martin, Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone, plus legions of “Chromies,” the champ’s loyal fans.
Chrome caps, in both his original and new silks colors, were proudly sported by many in the crowd. His inclusion in the Winter Challenge boosted Los Alamitos’ attendance to over 5000, compared to just over 1000 the day before.
Chrome is slated to say farewell to Los Alamitos on January 6 when he ships to Florida. After the January 28 Pegasus, he will head to Kentucky to stand stud at Taylor Made Stallions.
The five-year-old has given racing fans outstanding memories ranging from his 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins to 2016’s Dubai World Cup. The racing world will be watching the Pegasus to see if California Chrome will add one more major victory to his record before retiring to a new stage in his career.