GOOSE bumps happen when sports fans witness greatness, and there was no mistaking what a crowd of 24,155 was feeling and seeing from start to finish during Saturday’s $1-million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, San Diego on Saturday.
California Chrome, the world’s No. 1 money-winning thoroughbred, burst out of the No. 1 starting gate and led every step of the 2000m race en route to a five-length victory over three-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder. Another fancied runner, Dortmund, finished third.
“He’s just an amazing horse,” jockey Victor Espinoza said. “He won so easy today. I’m going to say this now — this is the best horse I’ve ever ridden.”
A lot of jockeys say that after a big win, but consider that Espinoza rode American Pharoah to the Triple Crown last year.
“When when I was behind the gate, I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to send him out of here,’” Espinoza said. “I’m going to send him hard out of the gate. I tapped California Chrome a couple of times and I was surprised I opened up two or three lengths right away.”
Beholder’s jockey, Gary Stevens, said he was hoping Dortmund’s trainer, Bob Baffert, would have told jockey Rafael Bejarano to put pressure on California Chrome from the start.
“Victor was loaded,” Stevens said. “He ran a great strategic race. What a horse. California Chrome is as good as I’ve ridden against.”
California Chrome, winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, has won all five of his races in 2016. The $600,000 winning purse gives him career earnings of $13,252,650, a North American record.
“How can you say anything more about him?” said his 79-year-old trainer, Art Sherman. “He’s just been a super horse. He’s the best horse in the country.”
-extracts from Los Angeles Times.