California Chrome continues to shine

April, 27, 2014
04/27/14
12:31
PM ET

Betting on the favorite in the Kentucky Derby was a highly shaky proposition for a lengthy period of time.

From 1980 to 1999, not a single favorite was able to land in the winner's circle after the "most exciting two minutes in sports."

Since then, though, five favorites have been victorious, and this year, in a page right out of the 1970s, the chalk just might make it two in a row.

A year ago it was Orb. Now it's California Chrome, who is approaching this year's race looking even more formidable than Orb did.

Orb was impressive in winning the Florida Derby, but California Chrome was dazzling in taking the Santa Anita Derby by 5¼ lengths and figures to be a bigger favorite than Orb, who went off at a pricy 5.4-to-1.

There will certainly be doubters on May 3, but so far it's looking as if the Chrome has not lost a bit of his shine since the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

In his final work before heading east to Kentucky, California Chrome breezed a half-mile in 48.20 seconds on Saturday at Los Alamitos in a manner that brought a smile to the face of 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman.

"Exactly what I needed for the horse," he said about the drill that saw California Chrome gallop out in 1:01 under jockey Victor Espinoza. "He doesn't need much now. He's ready. I just wanted to put some air in him. He's happy and fresh. That's the way I want to keep him for the race."

The time wasn't fast -- the front-running California Chrome raced the opening half-mile in 47.02 seconds in the Santa Anita Derby -- but Sherman was impressed by the ease with which his horse handled the assignment.

"Victor told me he couldn't believe how easy the horse went," Sherman said. "He just said he felt so good. Victor wrapped up on him and didn't let him do too much. He knows this horse so well. It couldn't be any better."

If it continues that way through next week, California Chrome could become the first California-bred horse to win the Derby since 1962 and make Sherman the oldest trainer to ever capture the famed opening leg of the Triple Crown.

Chrome could also make it back-to-back wins by Derby favorites for the first time since 1974 and 1975.

With streaks like that in front of him, history is quite clearly lining up against California Chrome. Yet his date with destiny is less than a week away, and he's surely acting like a horse intent on doing something special the first Saturday in May -- even if he's the favorite.

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.

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