California Chrome is headed for the $1 million Santa Anita Derby April 5, trainer Art Sherman confirmed from his headquarters at Los Alamitos Race Course.
"It's a relief that we've made the decision," Sherman told the Santa Anita Park publicity office by phone March 20. "The horse will blow out a half-mile Saturday (March 22) with Victor (regular rider Victor Espinoza) on, and probably have one more half-mile (work) before the race, then ship over five days before we run."
After California Chrome demolished his rivals in the an Felipe Stakes by 7 1/4 lengths March 8, Sherman said he was considering skipping the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby and taking the colt up to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on works alone. The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit earned 50 points toward a start in the Derby with the San Felipe win, assuring him of a spot in the starting gate for the May 3 event at Churchill Downs.
Sherman said California Chrome was knocked out a bit by his effort in the San Felipe, which was the colt's third consecutive stakes win and his fourth stakes victory overall. He has won his last three starts by a combined 19 lengths.
"The horse is acting really good right now." Sherman said.
Winner of five of nine starts overall for owners/breeders Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome has earned $534,850.
The news sets up an anticipated match-up with Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy in the West Coast's major event for 3-year-olds and a leading prep for the Kentucky Derby.
In other 3-year-old developments, Bayern, a possible starter in the Santa Anita Derby, drilled a half-mile in :47 2/5 over the Santa Anita main track Thursday with Gary Stevens aboard. Posting the seventh-fastest time at the distance on the morning, he worked in company with 3-year-old stablemate Superlooper, who was timed in :48.
"He went nice," trainer Bob Baffert said of the Kentucky-bred son of Offlee Wild owned by Kaleem Shah. "He sat behind a horse, he relaxed nice."
Bayern is 2-for-2 in his career and stomped an allowance field by 15 lengths in his most recent start Feb. 13. Scheduled to run in the San Felipe, the dark bay colt was withdrawn a couple of days before the race with a foot bruise.
Asked whether Bayern might run in either the Santa Anita Derby or the Arkansas Derby April 12, Baffert said, "I don't know yet."