Champion California Chrome worked a sharp five furlongs in :59 1/5 Saturday morning at Del Mar on a racetrack cleared of all but a few other runners he’s likely to face in his comeback race in the San Diego Handicap here next Saturday.
The handsome chestnut had regular exercise rider Dihigi Gladney in the tack as they took flight from the five-furlong pole on an overcast morning alongside the Pacific and went through splits of :12, :23 4/5, :35 3/5 and :46 4/5 en route to the final clocking. He galloped out another furlong in 1:13.
Two Del Mar’s clockers timed the 5-year-old California-bred winner of more than $ 12.5 million in purses in the same fractions and they agreed that the horse had earned a coveted “B” for “breezing,” a term reserved for only the easiest of works. Gladney never pushed on his charge and stood up in the saddle as they went past the finish line. The clocking crew at Del Mar noted that to that point in the morning (7:45), no other horses had worked quicker that 1:01 for the five-furlong distance.
Trainer Art Sherman, who watched the work from the Del Mar grandstand in close proximity to the finish line, noted he was “very pleased” with his 2014 Horse of the Year’s drill.
“He’s got his game face on,” said Sherman. “He’s a different horse when he’s getting ready to run. Dihigi had plenty of horse when he came by me. I’m very pleased with what I saw.”
California Chrome is expected to meet about a half-dozen rivals next week in the $ 200,000, Grade II San Diego at a mile and one-sixteenth in his first start since he captured the $ 10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26. The San Diego is designed as a stepping stone for the 12-time winner to start next in the $ 1 million TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20.
Two other potential San Diego runners also used the 7:45 to 8 a.m. “clear track” time to exercise Saturday – multiple stakes winner Dortmund, who only galloped, and the Santa Anita Gold Cup winner Hard Aces, who covered six furlongs in 1:13 4/5.
California Chrome will be ridden in the San Diego by Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard the flashy runner in his last 15 starts, 10 of them victories. It will be “Chrome’s” first start at the seaside course since November 29, 2014 when he won the Hollywood Derby on the grass, thus clinching his title as America’s top horse.
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