LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — California Chrome won the $180,000 Winter Challenge by 12 lengths in track-record time Saturday at Los Alamitos in his final start in California.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.03, breaking the old mark of 1:40.82 set by Uncle Lino on April 30 in the California Chrome Stakes.
California Chrome paid $2.10 as the 1-20 favorite in a race that featured only win wagering.
The victory, worth $50,000, increased California Chrome’s career earnings to $14,502,652, with 16 wins in 26 starts.
Point Piper was second at 21-1 odds, while 98-1 shot Papacoolpapacool was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third.
With 5,023 cheering him on, California Chrome made his first and last start at Los Alamitos where he has trained since January 2014 under Art Sherman.
The race served as a prep for California Chrome’s rematch with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28 at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.
Outrun early after breaking from the outside in the field of 10, California Chrome was kept in the clear and extremely wide by Espinoza to avoid any possible traffic problems.
Fifth after the opening half-mile, the 2014 Horse of the Year and world’s richest active thoroughbred moved up to join the leaders without urging and swept to the lead with about 2 1/2 furlongs to run.
“I was pretty nervous before the race,” Sherman said. “You know your horse is better than the others running in the race, but it is a horse race and anything can happen. You could see he was much the best. It was just perfect.
“Now I can relax and get ready for the Pegasus. I want Arrogate bad. I have something in my heart that says Chrome can beat him,” the trainer said.
California Chrome is set to begin his stud career in Kentucky after he competes in the Pegasus World Cup.
In the $100,000 Soviet Problem Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, 1-2 favorite Sircat Sally won by 12 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, Sircat Sally ran a mile in 1:35.42 and paid $3, $2.60 and $2.20.
Cash Prize returned $9.40 and $6.20 at 17-1 odds, while Bella Luma was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.60 to show.