California Chrome sizzles in preparation for San Diego Handicap

Champion California Chrome worked a sharp five furlongs in :59.20 Saturday morning at Del Mar, his final move in advance of his expected start in the $200,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 23.

Wearing his usual blinkers and with regular exercise rider Dihigi Gladney in the irons, the 2014 Horse of the Year broke away from the accompanying pony at the five-furlong pole on an overcast morning and went through officially-timed splits of :12, :23.80, :35.60 and :46.80 en route to the final clocking.

Trainer Art Sherman and his son Alan, observed from a box in the grandstand near the finish line. Alan called out split times of :23.60 and:45.60 en route to the identical five-furlong clocking. Sherman had the gallop-out in 1:12.

Del Mar’s clockers gave the 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit a coveted “B” for “breezing,” a term reserved for only the easiest of works. Gladney never pushed on his charge and stood up in the saddle as they went past the finish line.

“He’s got his game face on,” Art Sherman said. “He’s a different horse when he’s getting ready to run. Dihigi had plenty of horse when he came by me. I’m very pleased with what I saw.”

An hour after the Chrome Show, Gladney was in agreement.

“It was a really good work and he likes this track,” Gladney said. “I’ve worked other horses on it and thought it was a little heavy. But he handled it easy. I looked at my watch (during the work) and the fractions were good and I wasn’t doing anything, so I just let him go on.

“I had to take him off the rail a little to slow him down and, you’re right, I was almost standing up at the finish line.”

California Chrome is expected to meet about a half-dozen rivals next week in the San Diego Handicap going 1 1/16-miles in his first start since capturing the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26. The San Diego is designed as a stepping stone for the dual classic winner to start next in the $1 million, Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 20.

Two other potential San Diego runners also used the 7:45 to 8 a.m. “clear track” time to exercise Saturday – multiple stakes winner Dortmund, who only galloped, and the Santa Anita Gold Cup winner Hard Aces, who covered six furlongs in 1:13 4/5.

California Chrome will be ridden in the San Diego by Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard the flashy runner in his last 15 starts, 10 of them victories. The chestnut horse has won 12 of 21 career starts and stands as North America’s richest racehorse of all time with earnings of $12,532,650.