He wasn’t the pre-race favorite and he didn’t win the Breeders’ Cup Classic but California Chrome did redeem himself in the eyes of horse racing cognoscenti with a third place run in the richest race in America.
In fact, California Chrome was beaten by a neck by two horses that arguably could have been disqualified due to possible interference with other horses. Bob Baffert’s horse Bayern won the race with Toast of New York second. Bayern won despite some roughhousing at the start which resulted in a stewards’ inquiry that eventually upheld the result. Toast of New York veered hard to the left midrace interfering with Shared Belief who had earlier been nearly run over by Bayern.
The Breeders’ Cup Classic had the makings of a great race but instead turned into a controversial demolition derby. Bayern started the race like a linebacker, making contact with Shared Belief and causing V.E. Day and Moreno to take corrective action. Shared Belief would end up fourth and jockey Mike Smith blames the Bayern incident: “I think it cost me the race. I was never able to get comfortable after getting hit at the break.” The stewards’ felt differently, denying the appeal and explaining: “When the contact occurred at the start, according to the rules, we thought the horse was not cost a better placing.”
As for California Chrome, he managed to avoid the trouble but would eventually fall short. Art Sherman said that he remained proud of his horse: “Of course you’d like to win. I don’t know if he idled or got a little tired at the end of the race. Maybe it was just that the other two horses kept on running. Whatever the case, Chrome ran his heart out and that’s all you can ask. Although I do believe Bayern should have been disqualified. What happened after the start really changed the whole dynamic of the race.”
The focus now will turn to the ‘Horse of the Year’ award with most experts feel is a battle between California Chrome, Shared Belief and Bayern. Heading into the Breeders’ Cup Classic the thinking was that a win by either of these horses would ‘lock up’ the title but due to the nature of Bayern’s win that’s no longer a certainty.