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California Chrome wins Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos by 12 lengths

California Chrome wins Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos by 12 lengthsCalifornia Chrome’s racing career in his home state finished in the spectacular fashion everyone expected. He won Saturday’s $180,000 Winter Challenge by 12 lengths at Los Alamitos and did it without really trying. If that’s not enough, he set a track record for 1 1/16 miles by more than three-quarters of a second with a time of 1:40.03. The previous record was by Uncle Lino in, coincidentally, the California Chrome Stakes. Chrome is stabled at Los Alamitos, yet he had never run a race there. Still he is a rock star at the Orange County track, and pretty much everywhere else. He routinely attracts crowds at Los Alamitos on Saturday mornings when he works out at 5:30 a.m.
 
The Winter Challenge was a prep in every sense of the word. The real target is the Pegasus World Cup, a $12-million race on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park in Florida. After that race, Chrome will retire from racing.
 
The Pegasus will be a rematch with Arrogate, who handed Chrome his only loss this year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
 
“I want Arrogate bad,” trainer Art Sherman said. “One more time. … I got something in my heart that says I can beat him.”
 
Chrome broke well from the 10 hole in the 10-horse race. He settled nicely outside as jockey Victor Espinoza was mostly concerned with keeping him out of trouble.
 
He rounded the first turn in fourth place and then settled into fifth at the half-mile mark. At times he was four to six horses wide, losing ground that to a lesser horse would be extremely valuable. Chrome didn’t need it.
 
At about the three-quarter-mile mark Chrome took the lead with little to no urging. The rest of the race was simply a matter of how much Chrome wanted to win by.
 
Chrome paid $2.10 to win, the lowest amount a track can pay on a $2 bet. About 88% of the total win pool of $740,956 was bet on Chrome. There was a minus pool of $58,170 but Los Alamitos is liable only for money bet at the track or at Southern California satellite sites. The crowd was 5,023.   
 
Sherman thinks the race was good enough to settle the debate over who should be horse of the year. Arrogate has won five of six races, two of them Grade 1 stakes. Chrome has won seven of eight races — including the Dubai World Cup — six of them graded stakes.
 
“This will be great for horse of the year,” Sherman said. “I got a chance.”
 

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