Lady and The Track | December 6, 2022

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Classic Return for California Chrome

Classic Return for California Chrome: The 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic could be a case of “the best horse did not win,” but after surviving a Steward’s Inquiry, Bayern was not taken down, resulting in Bob Baffert’s first Classic victory. After so many close calls for Bob Baffert, the one horse that should not have gone a mile and a quarter, did just that. Bayern was able to hold on willfully by a desperate nose over the European based Toast of New York.

California Chrome Breeders' Cup Classic 2014

California Chrome (far left) had the ideal trip, and with only one race in him since June, the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner may have not been as well prepared as others in the field.
Photo: Breeders’ Cup Photo ©

Breeders’ Cup was one of the wildest events I have seen in quite a while. Horses that shouldn’t have won, did. Those who looked like a sure thing, were so sure in the end. One thing that the racing world should have seen after the finish of the Classic is that duel Classic winner California Chrome, is not finished.

Chrome had the ideal trip, and with only one race in him since June, California Chrome may have not been as well prepared as others in the field. It is safe to say that he needed the Pennsylvania Derby, and maybe having lost some confidence in that race, likely gained some of that loss back.

Horses as good as California Chrome can peak in two ways. The can peak in time for the Triple Crown, as Chrome did. They can also peak in the Triple Crown and then peak again, being a serious contender for the fall classics. If California Chrome is peaking again, there are certainly the believers out there.

“The outside post definitely helped me get the position I wanted; I had a good trip,” Espinoza said of California Chrome’s effort. “On the backstretch I thought I had a chance to win, but I knew (Bayern) was going to be tough when he gets the lead like that. The last sixteenth (California Chrome) was digging as hard as he could, but getting just a little tired. I wish he had one more race. It was a little too much for him today.”

California Chrome was facing retirement if he had a poor showing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. After that gut wrenching third place finish, Chrome likely confirmed to Perry Martin and Steve Coburn that they still have the California Chrome that they did in the spring. Art Sherman thought California Chrome would run the race of his life, and while that may not be exactly true, I think Chrome ran his toughest race. He was facing stiffer competition that he had before, and he showed his grit, heart, and determination.

If the top five finishers from the Classic come back as older horses, what an older division it will be! Bayern has proved that he is a multidimensional colt, able to stretch his speed if given the right conditions. Toast of New York proved that he is not just a synthetic specialist. California Chrome proved that the Pennsylvania Derby is his “throw out” race. Shared Belief is likely in need of a do over, but did make up ground decently, even with signs of struggling. Tonalist made up a lot of ground, which seemed impossible for the way the track had seemed to be playing all day. Candy Boy finished sixth, which is only the second time in his career where he has finished worse than fourth.

The three-year-old division dominated the Classic after the retirement or defection of most of the top older males. If all of the top six finishers come back in 2015, the older division will be more loaded than this year’s division was.

As for California Chrome, his next start is undecided, if he has another start. After the Classic, I have no doubts that California Chrome will be back in 2015, if not have another start this year.