Racing has itself a Rock Star.

He’s California Chrome, who on Saturday started on the path of legends, winning the Santa Anita Derby in breathtaking fashion, overpowering seven rivals, including well-regarded stakes winners Hoppertunity and Candy Boy. He was all but eased up at the end of a mile and an eighth, floating home by 5 1/4 lengths under a nonchalant Victor Espinoza.

Call it Superman compared to Clark Kent.

It was bedlam in the winner’s circle, replete with TV cameras, photographers, social media groupies, traditional media, autograph seekers and assorted hangers-on, but both horse and trainer survived the well-intentioned ordeal.

The national, yea, international, spotlight grows ever larger now as trainer Art Sherman prepares California Chrome for racing’s biggest stage, the 140th Kentucky Derby on May 3.

Although off a bit slowly and crowded early, California Chrome battled longshot Dublin Up and second choice Candy Boy for the lead until the quarter pole, then took off like a Jet, exploding to finish “under a long hold late,” according to Mike Schneider and Ken Davis of Equibase. His time for nine furlongs was 1:47.52, second-fastest in 77 runnings of the race.

“It was nice, huh,” said Espinoza, basking among well-wishers at Clockers’ Corner Sunday morning. “It’s a great feeling to have a horse like him on a special day like yesterday. The horse is something else.

“When I was that far in front, I didn’t want to use him up for the next race. I don’t want to empty the tank yet.”

“He came back great,” said Alan Sherman, son of and assistant to Art and a trainer in his own right. “He ate up last night and he looks good this morning. He came back to Los Al last night and will do all his important training here before going to Kentucky.

“The plane leaves on the 28th (of April). He’ll just school and gallop at Churchill Downs.”

Now the countdown is on to Kentucky, where California Chrome will seek to become the first horse bred in the Golden State to win the Run for the Roses since Decidedly in 1962.

Meanwhile, the media, well-versed in dealing with the ABP’s of racing, as in Asmussen, Baffert and Pletcher, will 24/7 beseech Sherman, a new face, figuratively speaking. At 77, the ex-jockey from Brooklyn might be long in the tooth, but he is an otherwise refreshing newcomer with a multitude of underdog storylines at a time when racing is sorely in want of same.

California Chrome has captured the hearts of the racing world, especially the little guy who performs his menial tasks daily with little or no fanfare.

“This shows you a good horse can come from anywhere,” said Richard Baltas, one of countless unheralded trainers who make up the backbone of the industry and without whom the game could not go on.

“When you see guys with a small outfit who have the best horse, it’s heartwarming and gratifying. I spoke to Art earlier this year and he was talking about retiring. Then, here comes the horse of a lifetime. It keeps you going, and it’s a great story.”

“I’ve been in the business going on three decades,” said agent Brian Beach, who represents Espinoza, “and I’ve won a lot of big races. I don’t get chills very often, but the Santa Anita Derby yesterday gave me chills halfway down the stretch. The whole grandstand was standing and applauding. You don’t see that very often.”

When it comes to miracles, the story of California Chrome is reaching for shelf space bordering on supernatural, right up there with Jets versus

Colts, Douglas versus Tyson, Miracle on 34th Street, the Miracle Mets, the Miracle on Ice, or any other miracle you want to name.


With great racing, the weather in a word, perfect, and an on-track crowd of 35,241 betting more than $4 million, Santa Anita Derby Day was a good day all around.

“Everything Santa Anita is doing is outstanding,” said agent Brad Pegram, who represents Mike Smith and Martin Garcia, in an unsolicited statement.

“It’s fun to be here now. It’s a great atmosphere. There’s a well-rounded crowd with families, not just fans. Santa Anita is doing a terrific job.”


Jockey Chantal Sutherland Kruse won the jockeys’ division of Santa Anita’s 5K run yesterday in 22:34, edging Aaron Gryder, who finished in 22:40. They were followed by Alex Bisono (24:01), Joe Steiner (24.25) and Kayla Stra (29:13).

CARMA’s Tessa Bisha led Santa Anita women employees with a time of 26:56, followed by Hospitality’s Sandy Hoar (29.37), Racing’s Christine Beer (31:44), HRTV’s Andrea Evans (32:07), TOC’s Mary Forney (32:30), CARMA’s Lucinda Mandella (42:31), Executive’s Denise DeAnda (47:20) and Operations’ Voni Walker (58:51).

Tony Ortega of Operations topped the men with a time of 21:28, defeating defending champion Jesus Camacho (21:40) of Racing, followed by Chris Whitaker (22:26), Willie Rivera (22:38), Scott Hazelton (23:01) and Evan Schwartz (28.36), all of HRTV.

There were 5,383 in the field, the largest ever in the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K runs.

FINISH LINES: With Gary Stevens in the saddle, Bayern worked seven furlongs in company Sunday morning in a bullet 1:23.80 in preparation for the Arkansas Derby next Saturday. Bayern is one of three possible Kentucky Derby candidates for Bob Baffert, along with Hoppertunity and Midnight Hawk . . . John Sadler said Candy Boy remains on the Derby trail, the only concern being if 30 qualifying points will be enough to join the field of 20 starters . . . Three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude worked six furlongs under Mike Smith in 1:13 for the April 19 Charles Town Classic. He won the $1.5 million race last year . . . Probable for next Sunday’s Grade III Santa Barbara Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 ¼ miles on turf: Champagneandcaviar, Joe Talamo; Changethechannel, Tyler Baze; Stormy Lucy, Rafael Bejarano; and Topic, Corey Nakatani . . . Agent Craig O’Bryan reports that Stevens will be at Oaklawn Park next weekend, riding Bayern in the Arkansas Derby; Golden Lad in the Oaklawn Handicap; and Stanwyck in the Apple Blossom . . . Smith rides two for Todd Pletcher at Oaklawn, Commissioner in the Arkansas Derby and Revolutionary in the Oaklawn Handicap . . . Condolences to family and friends of trainer Richard “Dickie” Small, who died of cancer Friday at the age of 68 at his home in Monkton, Md. Small saddled the brilliant Broad Brush to win the 1987 Santa Anita Handicap in a thrilling finish over the Charlie Whittingham-trained Ferdinand and Bill Shoemaker. He also sent out Concern to capture the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1994. Broad Brush also won the won the 1986 Wood Memorial and was third that year in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. According to Equibase, Small won 36 graded stakes, including 10 Grade I’s. Overall, the colorful and well-liked conditioner won 1,163 races from 7,670 starters with purse earnings of $38,432,577 . . . Agent Richie Silverstein expects Martin Pedroza to be back on horses next month, after the veteran jockey has recovered from bones broken in his left shin and he returns from a month-long visit to his 86-year-old mother, Luz, in his native Panama. He leaves on April 18. “Right now he’s in a removable walking brace and walking without crutches,” Silverstein said. “Everything’s going great. He needed no surgery. He should be ready to get on horses the last week of May and we’ll take calls here the last (condition) book or two.” Pedroza suffered the injury in a starting gate mishap on Feb. 7 . . . Sunday, April 20, is Easter Egg Hunt Day at Santa Anita. Bring the family for the largest Easter Egg hunt in the San Gabriel Valley. Hunts will run throughout race day in Santa Anita’s spacious infield. In addition, inflatable jumpers, face painting, pony rides and more will be available . . . Better late than never dept.: From former jockey Tom Wolski, now covering horse racing in his column “Hoss Talk” for The Vancouver Province in the Great White North, comes the following subtle missive: “Congratulations to six-time Hastings Racecourse leading trainer Troy Taylor and his new bride, Judy, on their recent marriage. It should be noted the newlyweds first met 61 years ago.”