Sports

Breeders’ Cup Classic turning point for California Chrome

Jockey Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to victory in the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in May. Chrome’s next race will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
Jockey Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to victory in the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in May. Chrome’s next race will be the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. The Associated Press

Horse of the Year or retirement: Those are the outcomes that ride on the upcoming Breeders’ Cup Classic for California Chrome.

Coming off two disappointing defeats, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will be among the headliners in the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. But with a poor performance, the $5 million race could be the 3-year-old colt’s last.

“(It’s) race by race now,” said co-owner Perry Martin, confirming for the first time what many observers suspected. “A good BC Classic and we’ll keep going. (Run a) clunker and he’s off to the breeding shed.”

But don’t plan a retirement party yet. California Chrome’s connections expect him to turn in a huge performance in America’s richest race.

“He’s getting super sharp,” Martin said. “We expect his best ever.”

With the stable name Dumb Ass Partners, Perry and Denise Martin of Yuba City and Steve and Carolyn Coburn of Topaz Lake, Nev., bred and co-own California Chrome, the first California-bred colt to sweep the first two legs of the Triple Crown. The popular chestnut has won eight of 14 starts and more than $3.5 million.

But California Chrome has not won since the Preakness on May 17. His Triple Crown bid was spoiled when he suffered a hoof injury June 7 while finishing in a dead heat for fourth in the Belmont Stakes in New York, won by Tonalist.

In his first race after the Belmont, California Chrome finished sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 20.

The colt since has trained aggressively for Art Sherman at his home track, Los Alamitos Race Course in Orange County, and on Oct. 18 he covered six furlongs in 1 minute, 12.20 seconds.

“I’m just so happy the way he’s been training these last three weeks,” Sherman said. “I’ve got one more blowout this Saturday and that’ll be the last tuneup for him.”

In the Classic, California Chrome will face undefeated Shared Belief and rematches with Tonalist and Bayern. A full field of 14 is expected when entries are drawn Monday.

“Many feel he is the one to beat,” Perry Martin said of Shared Belief. “I think we’ll need to beat them all.”

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.

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