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California Chrome a ‘Must-use’ in San Pasqual at Santa Anita

California Chrome a ‘Must-use’ in San Pasqual at Santa Anita: Value bettors love to go against California Chrome. On Saturday though, in the San Pasqual Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita Park, this strategy may not work out too well. The 2014 Horse of the Year faces seemingly overmatched rivals going 1 1/16 miles. First, here is a short recap of the news surrounding the horse.

California Chrome San Pasqual

Idle since collecting a tidy $2 million in running second in the Dubai World Cup March 28, trainer Art Sherman’s superstar California Chrome heads a field of eight older horses going 1 1/16 miles in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita. Photo: Benoit

California Chrome now runs under co-owners Perry Martin and Taylor Made Farm. While they intend to go to Dubai again, the horse will not ship to Europe this year and campaign mostly in California.

Their two major goals are the Dubai World Cup (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). Also, California Chrome can become the all-time leading money earner based in North America and eclipse the mark set by Curlin in 2008.

First, he must get through his comeback race in the San Pasqual. Regular jockey Victor Espinoza, winner of five out of the last six Triple Crown races, likes how California Chrome feels in preparation.

“He kind of grew up a little since last March,” Espinoza said last week. “His neck is thicker and he’s much sounder. The time off has helped him recover from minor issues he had with his body.”

HIs last race came in Dubai back in March, when he finished second to Prince Bishop in a solid performance which critics and fans somehow panned. California Chrome put away the two horses inside and only became a little tired towards the end after the pace duel. He finished in front of the other American horse, Lea.

No one criticized Lea for for losing, showing the double standard racing fans place on California Chrome.

Prior to Dubai, California Chrome finished second to Shared Belief in the San Antonio Invitational (GII) by less than two lengths. Some people considered Shared Belief the best horse in the world before his recent passing.

Of course, a long layoff for California Chrome remains a challenge. Supporters might point to the six-furlong workout in 1:10 and change last Saturday as proof he is ready, although it is not a good idea to rely on workout times as indicators. Regardless, trainer Art Sherman sounded confident in a press release.

“If he has a good trip (in the San Pasqual), he’ll be tough to beat,” he said after the work.

In addition, private clocker Gary Young spoke highly of California Chrome’s six-furlong spin in the same column.

“He went in one-10, he didn’t seem to be asked and Victor (Espinoza) was just sitting on him. It was an unbelievable work,” Young said.

The other horses in this race do not look enticing from a reliability standpoint.

Hoppertunity and Hard Aces are familiar names at the graded stakes level. In fact, Hoppertunity competes as the defending champion. Yet, the few times he ran against California Chrome resulted in thrashings. Hard Aces won the Gold Cup (GI) last summer, but with a lucky inside trip. Plus, Hoppertunity hung badly in the same race.

Point Piper won the Harry F. Brubaker at Del Mar last summer. Then he finished a good second to Dortmund in the Big Bear Stakes, before taking the runner-up spot again at Zia Park.

Alfa Bird and Mystery Train will battle for the lead. Alfa Bird set the pace in the San Antonio, before the class of Shared Belief and California Chrome took over. He recently finished sixth at Los Alamitos in an optional claimer. Mystery Train owns one win in the United States, which came at the lower-tier Evangeline Downs.

Once every so often, Imperative shows up with a decent race. He lacks a win since the 2014 Charles Town Classic (GII). Similarly, fellow closer Blingo last won in the 2014 San Antonio Stakes. Use these late runners underneath.

As much as he outclasses the field, the value on California Chrome will never be ideal. Bettors need to accept this fact if they play. If an alternative on top is necessary, try Hoppertunity, Hard Aces or Point Piper. Otherwise, single California Chrome and trust Sherman tuned him enough to handle this bunch.

San Pasqual 2016 Post Positions & Odds
Race 8 4:00 PM PT
1 Alfa Bird 20-1 Baze/Garcia
2 Blingo 20-1 Solis/Shirreffs
3 Point Piper 10-1 Bejarano/Hollendorfer
4 California Chrome 4-5 Espinoza/Sherman
5 Hoppertunity 5-2 Garcia/Baffert
6 Hard Aces 8-1 Talamo/Sadler
7 Mystery Train 30-1 Smith/Vienna
8 Imperative 6-1 Gutierrez/Baltas

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