DEL MAR, Calif. – It took a little more than two minutes for California Chrome to dominate Beholder, Dortmund, and Hoppertunity on Saturday in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, but the ramifications of his overpowering victory may be felt for the next two months.
While California Chrome is headed to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita, with a possible prep in the Grade 1, $300,000 Awesome Again at Santa Anita on Oct. 1, Beholder’s year-end goal may now be the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4, while Dortmund’s and Hoppertunity’s connections were plotting their next moves after being no match on Saturday for California Chrome.
California Chrome won the Pacific Classic by five lengths over Beholder and received a Beyer Speed Figure of 113, equaling his career best, earned when third in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“He’s so much stronger. He’s in the best part of his career now,” Art Sherman, who trains California Chrome, said at his Del Mar barn on Sunday morning. “It’s kinda awesome to watch.
“You’ve got the best horses in the country. These races are tougher,” Sherman said, comparing the current campaign to when California Chrome was 3. “I think he’s the best horse in the world, not that I might be biased.”
California Chrome left Del Mar on Sunday morning for his regular base at Los Alamitos. There is a $1 million bonus for a horse who can win the Pacific Classic, Awesome Again, and Breeders’ Cup Classic, but Sherman said that would have no impact on whether he goes in the Awesome Again.
“He’ll be ready,” Sherman said. “I’d be fine going into the Breeders’ Cup Classic fresh.
There are six weeks to the Awesome Again, then five more to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“The timing is right. We’ll see how he recovers,” Sherman said. “He came out of the race good. He was super after the race.”
With his Pacific Classic victory, California Chrome earned a fees-paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic through the “Win and You’re In” program. He is 5 for 5 this year, and is the clear front-runner for Horse of the Year, a title he won in 2014.
Trainer Richard Mandella said Beholder, who finished second, came out of the race “real good.”
“No way I’m anything but proud of her,” Mandella said Sunday morning. “She beat some pretty nice horses. She ran well enough to win most Classics, but not that one. The winner ran awesome.”
Mandella said Beholder would point to the Grade 1, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 1 as her next start. Beholder has won that race, which is restricted to females, the last three years.
Mandella said he would “decide later whether to go in the Classic or the Distaff” after the Zenyatta, but said, “as of now I’d probably be conservative and aim at the Distaff.”
Beholder won the Distaff in 2014, also at Santa Anita. She was scratched from last year’s Classic at Keeneland – in which she would have faced Triple Crown winner American Pharoah — when she took ill with a lung infection two days before the race.
Dortmund, who was third in the Pacific Classic, and Hoppertunity, who was fourth, both also were fine Sunday morning, according to trainer Bob Baffert. He said the race was “over the first eighth of a mile,” when jockey Victor Espinoza aggressively sent California Chrome from his rail draw and secured the lead.
“Victor put the shock and awe at the beginning. That was it,” Baffert said.
Baffert said he’d wait a bit before deciding on a race schedule for Dortmund and Hoppertunity this fall.
“My horses fired,” Baffert said. “The other horse was too good. He was the better horse. Sometimes you’ve got to say you got your ass beat.”