SANTA ANITA DERBY | PURSE: $1,000,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8-MILES
ARCADIA, Calif. -- California Chrome romped to a 5 ¼-length victory in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, stamping him as a strong favorite heading into next month's Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:47.52 at Santa Anita. He paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10 as the 3-5 favorite in the field of eight colts.
California Chrome has won his last four races by a combined 24 ¼ lengths for trainer Art Sherman, who has been in racing for 50 years but has never had a horse as good as this one.
Rebel Stakes winner Hoppertunity returned $4 and $2.60, while Robert Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy was another 3 ½ lengths back in third and paid $2.40.
California Chrome earned 100 points for the victory, giving him 150 to move atop the leaderboard in the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the 20-horse field for the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
Hoppertunity, trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, earned 40 points and now has 95, putting him sixth in the standings. Candy Boy earned 20 points and moved into 16th place.
California Chrome broke a step slow and was crowded in the early going. He went between horses to challenge for the lead with early pacesetter Dublin Up. California Chrome took command nearing the quarter pole and kicked clear without Espinoza needing his whip, widening his lead as he thundered down the stretch.
California Chrome's owners recently turned down a $6 million offer to buy 51 percent controlling interest in the colt. He has six wins from 10 career starts and earnings of $1,134,850.
Dublin Up was fourth, followed by Big Tire, Rprettyboyfloyd, Friendswith K Mill and Schoolofhardrocks.
Sherman said California Chrome's owners turned down a $6 million offer to buy the horse. The colt has five wins from nine career starts and earnings of $534,850.