CYPRESS, Calif. -- Uncle Lino has been hanging out in pretty cool company in recent months.
The colt was second, fourth, and third in three of the leading preps for the Triple Crown at Santa Anita earlier this year. The horses that finished in front of him in those races -- Exaggerator, Danzing Candy, and Mor Spirit -- are contenders for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.
With those runners seeking glory, Uncle Lino won his first stakes in Saturday's $151,035 California Chrome Stakes at Los Alamitos. Uncle Lino ran 1-1/16 miles in 1:40.82, setting a track record. Dortmund held the previous mark of 1:40.86, set in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity in 2014.
Uncle Lino's win may lead to a start in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 21, trainer and co-owner Gary Sherlock said in the winner's circle.
"I've got an extra week on the Derby horses, so we'll see how he comes out," Sherlock said.
Uncle Lino ($4.60) led throughout the California Chrome Stakes, tactics Sherlock insisted jockey Fernando Perez follow.
"Gary said, 'Break good and you'll be on the lead," Perez said.
"I've watched races all day and there's no place else to be," Sherlock said.
Uncle Lino was challenged throughout by 15-1 Rare Candy, who was racing as a gelding for the first time. Uncle Lino set fractions of 23.64 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, and 47.10 seconds for the first half-mile. Turning into the stretch, Uncle Lino held a narrow advantage over Rare Candy and stayed in front despite constant pressure.
"I was worried about him, but we got the job done," Perez said.
Uncle Lino led by a half-length with a furlong remaining and won by that margin. Rare Candy, scratched from the Santa Anita Derby on April 9, finished 5-1/4 lengths clear of Touched by Autism, the 71-1 longest shot in a field of eight.
The California Chrome Stakes was the first stakes appearance for Rare Candy since a seventh in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in January. He was second in consecutive optional claimers at Santa Anita in February and March.
"I think gelding him helped him a lot," trainer David Hofmans said. "That was the right horse that beat him."
Mishegas finished fourth, followed by Dalmore, Curlin Rules, Malibu Sunset and Let's Meet in Rio.
Uncle Lino has won 2 of 7 starts and earned $316,160. Sherlock co-owns Uncle Lino with Tom Mansor and Purple Shamrock Racing.
By Uncle Mo, Uncle Lino was second to Mor Spirit in the Grade 3 Robert Lewis Stakes in February, fourth to Danzing Candy in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in march and third to Exaggerator in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 9.