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California Chrome gets first look at Gulfstream Park

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — California Chrome has gotten his first look at the site of his final race.

The leading money winner in North American racing history went for a jog at Gulfstream Park early Sunday, two days after arriving to prepare for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28.

California Chrome has never raced in Florida, and his brisk pre-dawn trek onto the Gulfstream dirt – on an unseasonably chilly morning, the 48-degree air feeling colder in the wind – was the first of many scheduled for the next few days. He’s set to have daily early morning gallops until Saturday, when the plan calls for him to breeze five furlongs.

The first trek around Gulfstream was a success, the energetic colt seeming even more revved up by the cool conditions.

“That cold wind hitting him in the butt probably set him off a little bit,” Alan Sherman, the son of trainer Art Sherman, said as he stood in darkness outside the barn that California Chrome is calling home for the next few weeks. “He looked great. He’s sound and everything. Looked good.”

Gulfstream is the 10th, and final, track where California Chrome will run. He’ll be retired to stud in Kentucky after the Pegasus, a race that could push his career earnings past $20 million.

Coming in with plenty of time to acclimate might be a help.

California Chrome has only four wins in nine debut outings at a track. He’s got 12 wins in 17 starts when he has at least one race over a given surface.

“I’ve got nothing to worry about,” Sherman said. “As long as Chrome’s happy, I’m happy.”

The Pegasus is widely expected to be a rematch of sorts between California Chrome and Arrogate, the front-runners for Horse of the Year honors to be announced at the Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream on Jan. 21. They waged a memorable duel in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with Arrogate winning by a half-length to hand California Chrome his only loss in eight starts in 2016.

Arrogate was scheduled to work later Sunday at Santa Anita – where rainy weather has kept trainer Bob Baffert from what would have been his preferred schedule leading into this race. Arrogate has won his last five starts, including a record-setting time in winning the Travers at Saratoga in August.

“I want to run against Arrogate,” Sherman said. “I hope he comes.”

Meanwhile, the 12-horse field for the Pegasus – the richest race in the world, surpassing the $10 million Dubai World Cup – is taking shape, and many of the likely starters are already in South Florida.

Keen Ice and Neolithic, both trained by Todd Pletcher, worked Saturday at Palm Beach Downs. Shaman Ghost worked Friday at Palm Meadows, and Eragon cleared quarantine last week after arriving from Argentina.

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming to skip Belmont Stakes

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NEW YORK — Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming will skip the Belmont Stakes next month after finishing eighth in the Preakness.

Trainer Todd Pletcher says the 3-year-old colt will be pointed toward either the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29 or the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 30, according to the Daily Racing Form.

Trainer Chad Brown says he will wait until after the Memorial Day weekend to announce where Preakness winner Cloud Computing will run next. However, it appears unlikely he will run in the Belmont.

The Belmont field is limited to 16 starters. Besides Classic Empire, who came in second at the Preakness Stakes, other horses expected to run are Conquest Mo Money, Japan-based Epicharis, Gormley, Irap, J Boys Echo, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, Multiple, Patch, Senior Investment, Tapwrit, True Timber and Twisted Tom. Other possibilities are Irish War Cry and Hollywood Handsome.

With no Triple Crown in play, Belmont lacks a singular buzz

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BALTIMORE — Cloud Computing stole the Preakness, and any hope of a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

The 13-1 shot did it on six weeks’ rest, having skipped the 20-horse roughhouse that is the Kentucky Derby even though he had enough points to get in that race. With another three weeks until the Belmont in New York, Cloud Computing could return to run on his home track.

“We haven’t ruled it out,” trainer Chad Brown said Sunday. “We’re just going to evaluate the horse this week and probably by next weekend we may have a decision.”

Cloud Computing didn’t race as a 2-year-old because of injury, so he is among the freshest horses out there.

Brown prefers to give his horses a month or more between starts. Trainer Todd Pletcher also favors long layoffs, although he made an exception to run Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming back in two weeks. The colt responded with an eighth-place finish – the worst of his career – on Saturday.

“He looks good, bright, alert, sound, healthy, happy,” Pletcher said. “We’ll head to Belmont and regroup.”

If the Derby and Preakness winners skip the Belmont on June 10, the likely favorite would be Classic Empire, who was runner-up Saturday after finishing fourth in the Derby.

It would be the first time since 2010 that neither the Derby nor Preakness winner run in the Belmont. That year, Derby winner Super Saver, trained by Pletcher, and Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky sat out the third leg.

Trainer Mark Casse said Classic Empire is being pointed toward the Belmont, barring any unforeseen developments.

“He was a better horse yesterday than he was two weeks ago for the Kentucky Derby,” he said.

Among other horses likely for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont – the longest of the Triple Crown races – are: Senior Investment (third in Preakness), Lookin At Lee (fourth in Preakness) and Japanese invader Epicharis.

Lookin At Lee finished second in the Derby, when Classic Empire was fourth.

Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee would face off for the sixth time in the Belmont, and they could be the only horses to run in all three Triple Crown races. Classic Empire has three victories against Lookin At Lee, including this year’s Arkansas Derby.

“You’re looking at horses that traveled at 2, ran at as high a level as we have, so you’re not surprised,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Lookin At Lee and won last year’s Belmont with Creator.

“They’ve been able to maintain themselves physically. That puts them in a different position than horses who have not consistently run on that stage.”

Possible Belmont starters are Multiplier (sixth in Preakness) and Conquest Mo Money (seventh in Preakness). Gunnevera (fifth in Preakness) and Hence (ninth in Preakness) won’t run in the Belmont.

Epicharis, one of the top 3-year-olds in Japan, will make his North American debut in the $1.5 million Belmont. That would make him eligible for a new $1 million bonus offered by the New York Racing Association to any Japan-based winner of the race. The winner’s share of the purse is $800,000.

Epicharis would be the second Japanese horse to run in the Belmont. Last year, Lani finished third after running in all three legs of the Triple Crown.