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California Chrome victorious in San Felipe

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) - California Chrome barged into the Kentucky Derby picture with a 71/4-length victory in the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, running the second-fastest time in the 77-year history of the race.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome led all the way in covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.59. He paid $4.80, $2.60 and $2.10 as the 7-5 favorite. The colt is trained by Art Sherman, who has been in the business for more than 50 years but won the race for the first time.

"I had a lot of fun watching him run," said Sherman, a former jockey.

Trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, Midnight Hawk returned $3 and $2.20. The Sham Stakes winner is co-owned by Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice. Midnight Hawk bumped another horse leaving the starting gate under Mike Smith, but recovered to engage California Chrome much of the way.

"I was a little disappointed running second," Baffert said. "He ran with that horse, but he couldn't sustain it, and he got a little tired there at the end. You don't want to see a horse go out that fast."

With the temperature in the low 80s, the dirt track was fast.

"It's pretty speed-biased," Baffert said.

California Chrome inched away to the lead going into the stretch and drew off under a tap of the whip by Espinoza.

"I wanted to try something new today so I let him go right out of the gate," Espinoza said. "I don't know if people expected me to go right to the lead, but I wanted to let him enjoy his race."

California Chrome has been training at Los Alamitos, a quarter horse track in Orange County.

"I got more rooters over there today, you cannot believe it," Sherman said. "Every quarter horse trainer came over and shook my hand and said, 'Go get 'em, Art.' It made me feel good. They're going to be proud tonight."

Smith said people should start paying attention to California Chrome after such an impressive victory.

"He's a serious 3-year-old," the Hall of Fame jockey said.

Owned by his breeders Martin Perry and Steve Coburn, California Chrome won his third in a row. The victory, worth $180,000, increased his career earnings to $534,850, with five wins in nine starts.

Baffert's other horse, Bayern, was scratched because of a bruised front foot. Bayern was the morning line favorite after winning both of his starts easily.

Kristo was another 61/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.60 to show. Schoolofhardrocks was fourth.

California Chrome earned 50 points in the system used by Churchill Downs to decide the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby on May 3, moving him into the top 10 in the standings.

"I needed this 50 points," Sherman said. "Now I think I deserve to go to the (Kentucky) Derby. I don't think the distance will make any difference, a mile and a quarter. I think he'll run all day."

Midnight Hawk earned 20 points for second and has 32 points total, also putting him in the top 10. Kristo picked up 10 points for third and Schoolofhardrocks got 5 points for fourth.

Also scratched were Home Run Kitten and Rprettyboyfloyd, leaving a seven-horse field for the Grade 2 race.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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Mike Dempsey Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup.
The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes.

Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick.

Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively.

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Jerry Sessa Jerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins.
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