by Paulick Report
California Chrome, who has been based at Los Alamitos since January, 2014, will race for the first time locally – and last time in California – in the $180,000 Winter Challenge Saturday.
Scheduled for 1 1/16 miles, the Challenge – designed as a prep for California Chrome’s career finale in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park – attracted 11 others, but only 10 will be allowed to compete. The purse for the Challenge is structured so that any horse who finishes is guaranteed $10,000.
The Challenge will go as the last of nine races. Post time Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Scheduled post time for the main event is 4:28 p.m. The next-to-last program of the Winter Thoroughbred meet will also include the $100,000-guaranteed Soviet Problem Stakes.
Restricted to 2-year-old fillies bred or sired in California, the one-mile Soviet Problem will go as the second race and has a scheduled post time of 12:58 p.m.
There will also be a Los Alamitos beanie hat giveaway – one per paid admission while supplies last.
In addition, there will be a live-money handicapping contest with a cash prize and three seats to the 2017 Daily Racing Form/National Thoroughbred Racing Assocation National Championship in Las Vegas on the line.
Cost to enter the tournament is $400. Of that amount, $100 will be placed in the contest prize pool with the remaining $300 going towards a live-money wagering card.
Tournament races will include the entire Los Alamitos card with permitted wagers including win, place, show and exactas. Each entry must bet at least $50 on six races, but there is no limit on the amount of races each entrant can play.
If there are 120 or more entrants in the contest, a fourth seat to the NHC will be awarded.
Owned by Taylor Made Farms and co-breeder Perry Martin and trained by Art Sherman, California Chrome will be a prohibitive favorite to win for the 16th time in 26 starts over the surface where he has been stabled for nearly three years.
The world’s richest active thoroughbred with earnings of $14,452,650, the 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit and the Not for Love mare Love the Chase is scheduled to begin his stud career at Taylor Made after the Pegasus World Cup.
“This is going to be our big tuneup for the Pegasus,” said Sherman. “I just hope we have a safe trip and everyone has an enjoyable time.
“I’m looking forward to running him here in Orange County. I know he has a lot of fans. I think it will be a great day.”
Point Piper, who won the G3 Longacres Mile Aug. 14 at Emerald Downs, will make his Los Alamitos debut for a partnership that includes Gatto Racing and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
A 6-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway and the Sadler’s Wells mare Imagine, Point Piper has won five of 27 and banked $436,635.
Avanti Bello, who has been third in three of his four starts at Los Alamitos, comes off a victory in an optional claimer Oct. 30 for a partnership that includes Pablo Suarez, Steve Keh and Wonderland Racing Stables and trainer Doug O’Neill.
A 4-year-old Include colt out of the Mizzen Mast mare Masterful Lass, Avanti Bello is 5-for-19 with a bankroll of $328,243. In his most recent race at Los Alamitos, the California bred was third behind Soi Phet and Magic Mark in the E.B. Johnston Stakes Sept. 10.
Ain’t Misbehavin will be making his first start for new connections after being claimed for $20,000 Dec. 2 by trainer Vladimir Cerin for owner Harry Pellman.
Unplaced in two previous local races, the 4-year-old Elusive Warning gelding out of the Polish Miner mare Baba Zulu has six wins in 26 starts and earnings of $190,358.
Winless in six starts this year, Papacoolpapacool will race on dirt for the first time in nearly a year for owners John Snedegar and Ali and Francie Nilforushan and trainer Phil D’Amato.
The 4-year-old Temple City gelding out of the Saint Ballado mare Saintwork hasn’t tried the main since finishing fifth of eight when 37-1 in the Grade III Sham Stakes Jan. 10, 2015 at Santa Anita.
Papacoolpapacool, who hasn’t won since capturing the La Puente Stakes April 18, 2015, is 4-for-18 with earnings of $233,860.
Unusual Meeting, a 6-year-old Unusual Heat gelding who was claimed for $20,000 Dec. 3 at Golden Gate Fields by trainer Gary Stute for owner Kyle Ferraro, has won four of 46 and banked $167,032.
Howdy, who has a win and two seconds in four starts at Los Alamitos, will run for the first time since finishing ninth of 10 in an optional claimer nearly seven weeks ago.
Trained by Peter Eurton for Sharon Alesia, Ciaglia Racing LLC and Crystal Valley, Inc., the 4-year-old Sundarban colt out of the Momentum mare Foxy Babe has won three of 18 and earned $181,030.
Trainer Brian Koriner entered Wrightwood, a one-time winner who has been away since finishing eighth of nine in a $25,000 claimer Oct. 15, and Lucky J Lane, a winner at Los Alamitos during the Los Angeles County Fair meet in September when trained by Ron Ellis.
Owned by Koriner, Wrightwood, a 5-year-old Elusive Quality gelding out of the Aldebaran mare Grace Anatomy has banked $95,390 in 20 starts. His lone win came vs. maidens Aug. 3, 2014 when trained by Mike Harrington.
Lucky J Lane, a 5-year-old gelded son of Lucky J.H. and the Emerald Jig mare No Peso No Dance, has five wins in 23 starts and earnings of $272,520.
Presidentsky, a Vronsky gelding out of the Unusual Heat mare Presidential Heat, switches to dirt after finishing seventh of 10 in a $32,000 claimer on grass Dec. 3.
Owned by a partnership that includes Battle Born Racing Stable and Paul Girdner and trained by John Brocklebank, the 5-year-old is 5-for-21 with earnings of $132,280.
The two also-eligibles are Air Pocket and Ground Rules.
Winless in four starts on dirt, Air Pocket was last seen finishing ninth of 12 on turf Nov. 6, his initial try after being claimed for $25,000 by trainer Rafael DeLeon for owners Graytown Racing, Nicolas Castillo and Jaime Renella.
A 4-year-old son of Smart Strike and the Storm Cat mare Corona Lake, Air Pocket has won two of 10 and earned $97,275. Both of his wins came for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
Ground Rules, a 4-year-old Smart Strike gelding out of the Deputy Minister mare Noble Idea, hasn’t been out since being pulled up in an optional claimer March 31 at Santa Anita.
Owned by breeders Pam and Marty Wygod and trained by Cliff Sise, Jr., Ground Rules is 2-for-8 with earnings of $89,145.
From inside out, the field for the Winter Challenge: Howdy, Chantal Sutherland rides, 118 pounds; Wrightwood, Jose Verenzuela, 118; Presidentsky, Brayan Pena, 120; Point Piper, Mario Gutierrez, 124; Ain’t Misbehavin, Kent Desormeaux, 118; Lucky J Lane, Jamie Theriot, 120; Avanti Bello, Drayden Van Dyke, 124; Unusual Meeting, Tiago Pereira, 118; Papacoolpapacool, Tyler Baze, 120; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 126; (AE) Air Pocket, Norberto Arroyo, 118 and (AE) Ground Rules, Arroyo, 118.