California says goodbye to its favorite racehorse Saturday when California Chrome makes his final start in his namesake state in a stakes created for him at Los Alamitos Race Course, his home for almost three years.
America’s all-time richest thoroughbred, California Chrome will be a prohibitive favorite versus nine challengers in the $180,000 Los Alamitos Winter Challenge, which will be the 5-year-old superstar’s first and only start at the Orange County track.
“He’s trained here for some of his biggest races,” said trainer Art Sherman on Thursday. “He’s always liked it here; he should relish the track Saturday. … All he has to do is come over from the barn.”
With earnings of more than $14.4 million, California Chrome will use this Los Alamitos farewell as a tune-up for the new $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park in Florida and a possible rematch against Arrogate, who narrowly beat Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5. Following six consecutive victories, that loss was Chrome’s only defeat of 2016.
“Two days after the Classic, he was ready to get back to work,” Sherman said. “He was ticked off after getting beat.”
The Pegasus should be Chrome’s final start before his retirement to Kentucky’s Taylor Made Farm, which now co-owns the popular chestnut with Perry and Denise Martin of Yuba City.
Best known for quarter horse racing, Los Alamitos has wanted to showcase its most famous resident for a long time, but the track hosts only five weeks of thoroughbred racing a year. To help fill the Winter Challenge field, the track guaranteed $10,000 to all starters; the winner earns $50,000. Stakes winners Point Piper and Avanti Bello lead the opposition.
To be ridden by Victor Espinoza, Chrome starts from post 10 and carries high weight of 126 pounds. No place or show wagering will be offered. Post time is 4:28 p.m. with TVG offering live television coverage.
“It’s been a tremendous honor to have a worldwide star like California Chrome make Los Alamitos Race Course his home base for the past three years,” said Brad McKinzie, the track’s vice president and general manager. “For us to have the opportunity to see our hometown hero, California Chrome, race at Los Alamitos, it’s like an early Christmas present.”
“Chromies,” the horse’s devoted fans, are expected to turn out in force.
“They’re expecting a huge crowd,” Sherman said. “I’m just hoping the weather stays OK.”
Sherman noted that Chrome has not competed on a sloppy track. Although rain was expected Friday, Saturday’s Orange County forecast calls for sun and temperatures in the high 50s.
“It would have to be a really bad track for us not to run,” Sherman said. “Right now, we’re focusing on running.”