CALIFORNIA CHROME BRILLIANT IN $250,000 CALIFORNIA CUP DERBY, ESPINOZA GUIDES SHERMAN TRAINEE TO 5 ½ LENGTH WIN THAT COULD LEAD HIM DOWN KENTUCKY DERBY TRAIL

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 25, 2014)—They saved the best for last on Saturday at Santa Anita. Trained by Art Sherman and ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome demolished nine state bred rivals in taking the $250,000 California Cup Derby by 5 ½ lengths, getting 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.22—perhaps stamping himself as a top tier Kentucky Derby prospect.

A striking chestnut colt by Lucky Pulpit, California Chrome came off a dazzling six length win in the seven furlong King Glorious Stakes on Dec. 22 and was making his eighth career start on Saturday.

“I know he’s doing great but it was his first time around two turns,” said Espinoza. “We wanted to find out if he could go that far and today, he showed he can go the distance. He did it easy. I had to tap him once though, just so he kept going, because he waits for other horses.”

Owned by his breeders, Martin Perry and Steve Coburn, California Chrome, the second choice at 5-2, paid $7.00, $3.80 and $3.20.

“I thought he would run awesome today,” said Sherman. “He’d been training like a bomb. I brought him over here (from his Hollywood Park base) about a week before and schooled him and took him in the paddock. The horse, the light bulb went on. He was kind of green starting out. He had a couple rough trips in his races, he kind of got banged around and had no place to go.

“Now, he’s learned how to rate himself and have speed—and in California, that’s the type of horse you want.”

Although he has yet to garner any Kentucky Derby qualifying points, California Chrome picked up $137,500 for the win, increasing his earnings to $352,350.

Jerry Hollendorfer’s Tamarando, the 9-5 favorite, was taken well off the pace by Rafael Bejarano and made a good run through the lane to finish second, 3 ¼ lengths clear of Life Is a Joy and Corey Nakatani.

Tamarando paid $3.40 and $2.60.

“I certainly didn’t expect him to be that far back,” said Hollendorfer.

Life Is a Joy sat second early to longshot Better Bet and finished 4 ¼ lengths in front of Awesome Return and paid $4.60 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.47, 47.47, 1:11.95 and 1:36.73.