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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.

2017 Kentucky Derby: Mike Tirico succeeds Tom Hammond

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STAMFORD, Conn. – Mike Tirico, who was recently named NBC’s primetime Olympics host, will be taking the Triple Crown hosting reins from Tom Hammond, an award-winning member of NBC Sports’ horse racing team for more than three decades.

Tune in to watch live coverage of the 2017 Kentucky Derby at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 6, on NBC.

“NBC Sports is the home to the world’s premier horse racing, due in no small part to Tom’s passion, knowledge and relationships in the sport,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman NBC Broadcasting and Sports. “We are pleased that Tom is going to remain part of the NBC family and that we have someone of Mike’s caliber to succeed him on horse racing.”

Next week on NBCSN, Hammond will host the special 30-minute My Kentucky Home, in which he takes a look at how Kentucky came to be the home of thoroughbred racing. Hammond, who has covered a dozen Olympics, will return to NBC Olympics’ coverage at the 2018 PyeongChang Games next February.

Tirico, making his first-ever trip to a Triple Crown event, joins NBC Sports Group’s Triple Crown coverage beginning with the 2017 Kentucky Derby on May 6 on NBC, and will work the Preakness Stakes on May 20, and the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

“Tom’s professionalism, presence and passion for the sport enhanced Triple Crown viewing for so many of us over the years,” said Tirico, who made his TV horse racing debut alongside Hammond last fall on NBC’s coverage of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. “He perfectly set the tone and in the process set the standard for this role.  I’m honored to follow a legend and cherish the chance to work with our great team.”

Hammond’s TV horse racing debut came in 1984, when he was hired on what was intended to be a one-time-only basis as a reporter for NBC’s telecast of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Ever since that Eclipse Award-winning telecast, Hammond has been integral on a wide-range of NBC Sports events, highlighted by horse racing – covering his home-state Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes 16 times apiece, and 11 Belmont Stakes, including American Pharoah’s historic Triple Crown victory in 2015. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Kentucky, where he earned bachelor’s degree in animal science and studied equine genetics as a graduate student, Hammond has also anchored NBC’s Breeders’ Cup coverage over the past 30+ years.

“I had a great time putting together My Kentucky Home, and I hope viewers will understand why I think this is a special place,” Hammond said. “As I embark on a less demanding schedule at NBC, I can rest assured that the coverage of Thoroughbred racing is in good hands. That sport is very close to my heart, so I am pleased that Mike, a highly accomplished professional, will assume the role as leader of the superb NBC horse racing team. I wish them all the best going forward.”

Hammond’s 30-minute My Kentucky Home special will debut on NBCSN next Wednesday, May 3 at 12:30 a.m. ET following Tuesday night’s St. Louis-Nashville Stanley Cup Playoff game. The special will encore on NBCSN on Wednesday, May 3 at 5 p.m. ET, Thursday, May 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET and on Friday May 5 within NBCSN’s live Kentucky Oaks coverage and following that evening’s Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Jockeys Castellano, Espinoza, Gomez, throughbred Goldikova elected to HOF

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) Jockeys Javier Castellano, Victor Espinoza and Garrett Gomez and thoroughbred Goldikova have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.

The 39-year-old Castellano has won the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey the past four years. Entering the week, he had 4,664 career wins and was ranked fifth all-time in purse earnings, with more than $276 million.

The 44-year-old Espinoza had 3,318 wins entering the week, with purse earnings of more than $193 million, which ranks him 17th all-time. He won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2015 aboard American Pharoah.

Gomez, who died last year, won 3,769 races, with purse earnings of more than $205 million to rank 14th all-time.

Goldikova posted a career record of 17-6-3 from 27 starts to earn $7,176,551. The filly is the only three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner (2008-10).

The induction ceremony is Aug. 4 in Saratoga Springs, New York.