By Jay Privman
ARCADIA, Calif. — California Chrome, making his first start in more than nine months, scored a solid and very popular victory on Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 San Pasqual at Santa Anita, his lone start before a return trip to Dubai to point for the World Cup in March.
With regular rider Victor Espinoza up, California Chrome tracked the soft pace of Alfa Bird of 24.82 seconds for the quarter and 49.12 seconds for the half, roared past that rival during a fast third quarter run in 23.78 seconds, and then held safe Imperative to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:43.39 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.
This likely won’t get a big Beyer Speed Figure, but in terms of a comeback off a lengthy layoff, with a bigger prize down the line, it served its purpose as a means to an end, and it certainly was popular, for California Chrome went off at 3-5 and received a boisterous cheer as he came to the wire.
Hoppertunity was third, another length back, with Hard Aces fourth.
The win made California Chrome the richest California-bred of all-time, passing Tiznow.
California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2014, when he was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.