It’s been quite a journey for California Chrome, most recently the winner of the Santa Anita Derby. And it’s not going to end any time soon. California Chrome has gone from a horse that didn’t win in his first allowance race to the presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite–and the way people ‘in the know’ are talking about him he might be an overwhelming Derby favorite at that. In the span of a little more than a year California Chrome has gone from an underachiever to a phenom to a superstar in the making. Heading in to last weekend’s Santa Anita Derby he remained something of a question mark despite being the top ranked 3 year old in the country by virtue of his impressive win in the San Felipe Stakes. The prevailing wisdom was that he needed to ‘make a statement’ in the Santa Anita Derby to secure his status as Kentucky Derby favorite.
He did just that, winning the Santa Anita Derby with ease and turning in a time that had been beaten only three times in history (Lucky Debonair in 1965, Sham in 1973 and Indian Charlie in 1998). Now just about everyone is convinced including Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia:
“I don’t think there’s any doubt. I know he’s a California-bred and the breeding. But you’ve got to go by what this horse has done on the track. There’s nothing that’s been as impressive as California Chrome. And he’s done it three, four times in a row now. All these other ones, it’s going to be tough for (Florida Derby winner) Constitution, I think, with just three races. Cairo Prince kind of fell flat (fourth in Florida Derby). Where else would you go?”
The Arkansas Derby still remains to be run but its unlikely that even a dominating performance by horses like Bayern or Tapiture would supplant California Chrome as the Kentucky Derby favorite. In fact, since some other highly regarded horses can be expected to be taken off the Derby trail California Chrome’s prospects can only improve from here. The Kentucky Derby will be run on the first Saturday in May at the Churchill Downs race track in Louisville, Kentucky.