Derby Break Crucial for California Chrome
May 01, 2014 08:12am

Victory in the Kentucky Derby could well depend on the breaks, or, more specifically, the break, when it comes to California’s pride and joy, Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome.

So says retired Hall of Fame riding great Jerry Bailey, who took time from his intensely busy schedule as analyst on Saturday’s NBC Sports telecast of the 140th Run for the Roses to render this preview.

“I think the draw (the No. 1 post position) probably hurt Vicar’s In Trouble the most,” Bailey said. “He’s a speed horse on the inside, and that forces his hand with so much other speed in the race. That probably spells a lot of trouble for Vicar’s In Trouble.

“On the other end of the spectrum, Wicked Strong drew (post position) 20 and he could work out a trip. But he needs a lot of luck going into the first turn, which he may get, because with so much pace, the race spreads out pretty well, and it’s easier for a rider working from outside in, like Wicked Strong and Candy Boy (post position 18). Those horses can kind of get in and get a comfortable trip, not going too wide.

“I don’t think California Chrome’s post position (five) matters so much. The important thing for him is how he breaks. He has broken poorly in the past. That’s what cost him the race at Santa Anita in November.”

Bailey was referring to the Golden State Juvenile on Nov. 1, when breaking from the No. 1 post position in the one mile race, California Chrome “hopped at the start and was off slow,” eventually finishing sixth, beaten three lengths under Alberto Delgado.

Since then, Victor Espinoza has been the colt’s regular rider, going unbeaten in four starts, winning by a combined margin of 24 1/4 lengths.

“The start caused him to drop back,” Bailey said of Golden State Juvenile, “and he caught the dirt; his success (in the Derby) depends on how well he breaks.”


California Chrome has a world of support in his bid to capture Saturday’s Kentucky

Derby, but whether Southern California-based horsemen are leading with their hearts instead of logic will only be determined after the race.

In a random sampling, most trainers at Santa Anita were in support of California Chrome, including Vann Belvoir, who had opted for Santa Anita Derby runner-up Hoppertunity before the Bob Baffert trainee was scratched Thursday morning due to an issue with his left front foot.

“I do like the fact that Victor (Espinoza) is on California Chrome,” Belvoir said. “He won the Derby (in 2002 on War Emblem). I think a jockey who’s won it before is going to win it this year. Their experience makes a big difference in a big race like this.

“Everyone thinks California Chrome has to be on the lead or close, but I think he can come from off it. I’ve got to go with California Chrome, with Ride On Curlin as my longshot.

“In the Derby, you’ve got to run more than one race; you’ve got to run to get position; you’ve got to run to hold your position, because everybody’s going to be making moves mid-race; and then you’ve got to make that final run, which can be a staggering last eighth of a mile.

“There’s all that noise from the crowd, the jockeys are exhausted, and the horses are exhausted. There are a lot of intangibles.”

Other trainers’ thoughts on a warm Thursday morning at Clockers’ Corner:

Barry Abrams: “California Chrome with Danza as a longshot.”

A.C. Avila: “California Chrome. He’s the best horse so far.”

David Bernstein: “I’m rooting for California Chrome, with Wicked Strong from the outside as a longshot.”

Julio Canani: “California Chrome. We need him.”

Ben Cecil: “I’d love to see California Chrome win. He looks like the best horse in the race. A Cal-bred winning would be a boost we need. Medal Count would be my longshot.”

Caesar Dominguez: “California Chrome, Candy Boy and Wicked Strong.”

Jerry Fanning: “It would be nice to see a Cal-bred win. It’s been quite a while (Decidedly in 1962). I like Danza as a longshot.”

Bruce Headley: “I like California Chrome, the way he won the Santa Anita Derby. Art Sherman has served his time and learned from one of the greatest trainers in Mesh Tenney. He got a quarter horse to go a mile and three-quarters and win (Olden Times in the 1962 San Juan Capistrano Handicap).”

Ron McAnally: “California Chrome stands out. They won’t beat him.”

Mike McCarthy, who was an assistant to Todd Pletcher for nearly 12 years: “I always like to see someone I’ve been involved with do well, so I like Danza and Intense Holiday (trained by Pletcher). But California Chrome deserves support, too. It could come down to whoever is luckiest on the day.”

Tim Yakteen: “This is not Art’s first rodeo (referring to 77-year-old Art Sherman, trainer of California Chrome). He’s got ice water in his veins. His horse is primed and ready.”

Perhaps this anonymous endorsement for California Chrome summed it up best: “We need a hero in California, especially one with that name.”




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