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California Chrome proves he’s Awesome Again

No surprises here; California Chrome is still the best.

In Saturday’s nationally televised Awesome Again Stakes, California Chrome withstood intense pressure from Dortmund to win the $300,000 race at Santa Anita Park and set him up for next month’s Breeders’ Cup world championships.

Dortmund, the 2015 Santa Anita Derby winner, tried to challenge California Chrome from the start as the two vied in a virtual match race for most of the 1 1/8-mile contest. Breaking from the rail, Chrome set lively fractions of 22.76 seconds for the quarter, 46.08 for the half-mile and 1:34.45 for the mile, with Dortmund pushing the champion hard. But Dortmund could not pass, finishing 2 1/4 lengths behind Chrome, with Win the Space a distant third. The final time was 1:48.07 on the fast track. Chrome, who paid $2.80 for a $2 wager, earned $180,000 to increase his record bankroll to more than $13.43 million.

“(Dortmund) wasn’t a threat,” jockey Victor Espinoza said after Chrome’s 15th win. “I just kept pulling away. … I didn’t want to overuse him; we’ve got a big race coming up.”

Now 6 for 6 for 2016, California Chrome cemented both his standing as America’s best racehorse and the Breeder’s Cup Classic favorite. He’ll be return to Santa Anita on Nov. 5 for the $6 million Classic.

“You’re looking at the best horse in the world right now,” said trainer Art Sherman. “He’s scary good.”

Sherman, who got banged in the nose by a TV camera in the intensely packed winner’s circle, lauded both Espinoza and his horse.

“I can’t say enough about the ride – it was just perfect,” Sherman said. “The horse is great. When he gets in front, he’s a hard horse to get by.”

After the race, co-owner Perry Martin of Yuba City handed out campaign-like buttons reading, “Vote Chrome for President.”

“The two major candidates don’t have two good legs to stand on; we proved today Chrome has four,” Martin quipped. “We’re for Chromie-ism, not cronyism. Our horse is making America Awesome Again.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington