California Chrome Wins Sixth Race in a Row in Awesome Again

California Chrome and Dortmund early on in the Awesome Again.

California Chrome and Dortmund early on in the Awesome Again. Photo by Terri Keith.

California Chrome racked up his sixth consecutive win this year in the easiest of fashions in the Grade 1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita Park on Saturday as he prepares for next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“You know, each race seems a little better for me, and it’s kind of scary,” California Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman, said of the 5-year-old chestnut horse’s latest victory.

California Chrome came out on top again in his third match-up this year with Dortmund, topping his familiar rival by 2 ¼ lengths in a winning time of 1:48:07 for the 1 1/8-mile, $300,000 race. Win the Space was third, followed by Hard Aces and Soi Phet.

“Once Chrome gets in front, he’s not going to let you get by, you know, and he’s just got that determination and class,” Sherman said, while acknowledging that the Breeders’ Cup Classic – which will also be run at Santa Anita Park – will be the “main test.”

“But, hey, listen, bring ‘em on, baby,” he said. “I’m ready. You know I don’t care who they (have) got. They can bring anybody … He’s got a turn of foot that you cannot believe,” he said of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness victor who went on to win Horse of the Year.

Sherman called the journey with California Chrome “a dream come true.”

“I never had the ability to buy the most expensive horses. This is just like a gift from I don’t know where. Maybe it was my time to shine, I don’t know,” he said. “So I’m enjoying it, and I’ll enjoy seeing his babies years from now.”

After the Breeders’ Cup, California Chrome is expected to make his last trip to the track at the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida before retiring to Taylor Made in Kentucky for stallion duty.

“I’d love to see him race one more year, to tell you the truth,” Sherman said.

California Chrome – who has been undefeated this year in races including the Dubai World Cup at Meydan and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar — has been No. 1 on the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s poll every week in 2016.

And he’s topped the record books with more than $13 million in earnings from 16 wins in 24 starts.

“It’s been probably a privilege to train a horse like this,” his trainer said in a winners’ circle interview. “You know, I’ve been around a lot of good horses growing up … I might be a little prejudiced, but I think he’s the best horse I’ve seen in a decade and I’ve seen a lot of good ones.”

California Chrome’s longtime jockey, Victor Espinoza, also had Grade 1 wins aboard Stellar Wind in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes and Gormley in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes.

“It’s good to be lucky,” Espinoza said following his win aboard Stellar Wind over Beholder. “That’s what I’m here for – to win … Now that I have the opportunity, I can’t waste it.”

Stellar Wind’s trainer, John Sadler, said, “Well, you know, she ran so well last time. I thought this race would be very similar to what it was. Another battle and we’re lucky enough to prevail a second time.”

Stellar Wind, last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, beat Beholder by a half-length on July 30 in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar. Their latest match-up was even closer, with the two dueling down the stretch and Stellar Wind coming in a neck ahead of the three-time Eclipse Award-winning champion.

The two are expected to face off in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff against the undefeated 3-year-old filly Songbird, who has 11 wins in a row for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

“You know, we’re looking forward to it. We’re good on this track,” Sadler said of Stellar Wind, noting that the daughter of Curlin has only lost once at the Arcadia track. That one – the Grade 1 Vanity – went to Beholder.

Beholder’s trainer, Richard Mandella, said he wasn’t making any excuses for the 6-year-old mare, whom he said ran a “terrific race.”

“My mare didn’t look like she ever gave up, just that mare had her number. We’ve got to change numbers,” Mandella quipped.

Mandella did get the finish he wanted from Avenge, who won the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive for fillies and mares on turf.

Horse Bits:

 Many of those connected to California Chrome came into the winners’ circle wearing a button that read “Chrome for President.” When asked if he’d be willing to be California Chrome’s running mate, Espinoza said, “If they want me to, why not? I can do that. I’m not really into politics, but I think I can do that.”

 Trainer Bob Baffert had thought about sending the 2-year-old filly Noted and Quoted to Keeneland after her fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante last month. But he changed his mind after seeing the gray-roan daughter of The Factor work “so well” at Santa Anita this week. She ended up winning the Grade 1 Chandelier at her home track.

 Noted and Quoted’s stablemate, the highly touted American Cleopatra, finished a disappointing eighth in The Chandelier. Baffert said he’ll have to sit down with the 2-year-old filly’s owners to talk about what will be next for the full-sister to American Pharoah.

 Gormley, who easily won in his first start at Del Mar last month, scored his second victory in the Grade 1 The Frontrunner Stakes for Espinoza and trainer John Shirreffs. Shirreffs said he wanted to take some time to “celebrate this win a bit.” In second was Klimt, who won the Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity.