California Chrome keeps on shining at Pacific Classic

This bronzed beach day turned into Classic Chrome.

North America’s all-time richest racehorse, California Chrome continued to add to his lustrous records, romping wire to wire to win Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

“He’s just an amazing horse,” said jockey Victor Espinoza. “He won so easy (Saturday). I’m going to say this now: This is the best horse I’ve ever ridden.”

High praise, indeed, considering Espinoza won the 2015 Triple Crown aboard American Pharaoh.

Before a packed house of 24,155, California Chrome turned the 1 1/4 -mile Pacific Classic into a procession. Against champion mare Beholder and top handicap horses Dortmund and Hoppertunity, California Chrome took command from the gate and never faltered. The even-money favorite, Chrome ($4.20) won by five lengths with Beholder 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Dortmund for second. The final time was a solid 2 minutes, 0.13 seconds.

Most handicappers expected Beholder, the defending Pacific Classic champion, to challenge Chrome early, but she never got close.

“Victor was playing with us,” said Gary Stevens, who rode Beholder. “I don’t think he really let him run. That’s scary to think about.”

Team Chrome was wowed by their star, too.

“I’m just really proud of him,” said Yuba City’s Perry Martin, Chrome’s co-owner and breeder. “It was just a fabulous win and the first time Victor did what I told him to do – go to the lead (and stay there).”

“When he opened up two or three lengths on (Beholder) and she was already driving trying to catch him, I knew it was over,” trainer Art Sherman said. “He’s just a super horse, the best in the country.

“I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have him,” he added.

A perfect 5 for 5 this year, Chrome improved his record to 14 wins in 23 starts and more than $13.25 million in earnings.

“He’s just a different horse since he came back (from his layoff),” Espinoza said. “Before the race, I was a little bit confident. The way he broke, I was really confident.”

Espinoza looked over his shoulder as he turned for home. “I wanted to see how far behind they were,” he said.

Martin chimed in, “Next time we’ll give you binoculars.”

At Saratoga Race Course in New York, Songbird maintained her unbeaten record, winning the $600,000 Alabama Stakes. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the 3-year-old filly is now 10 for 10.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington