Twelve months after American Pharoah ended a stellar career with a commanding victory at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, California Chrome is ideally placed to follow suit in similar fashion in the same race .
A fan favourite like 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, ‘Chrome’ is near the end of his illustrious career and is the early favourite to win the Classic, the showpiece in the two-day racing carnival at Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday.
The Art Sherman-trained colt, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2014, is unbeaten this year after romping to victory in all six races in dominant fashion, including the Dubai World Cup on March 26.
With jockey Victor Espinoza in the saddle, California Chrome has been installed as the even-money favourite for the $6 million feature event at iconic Santa Anita with its picturesque backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains.
The five-year-old chestnut will start from barrier four in the 10-horse field, leaving Espinoza with the strategic call on whether to charge into the lead early or bide his time.
“All I can do is have confidence and trust my decisions,” Espinoza said.
“Chromes, (the horse’s fans) love him as much as I do. It makes my job tougher because I don’t want to disappoint them.
“I’d rather be outside, but four will be good. As long as California Chrome is ready, I should be able to move out of there quick.”
A formidable challenge to California Chrome could come from the late-developing three-year-old Arrogate, who stormed to victory by 13-1/2 lengths in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August.
With veteran Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard, Arrogate will start on the outside as a 5-2 choice, and will offer Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a shot at a third consecutive triumph.
Baffert saddled 2014 champion Bayern at Santa Anita and last year’s winner at Keeneland, American Pharoah, with Espinoza on board.