California chrome eyes triple crown
CALIFORNIA CHROME won the 140th Kentucky Derby in brilliant fashion at a bright and sunny Churchill Downs yesterday morning (Singapore time), adding another fairytale chapter to America's most famous and revered horse race.
Perfectly ridden by Victor Espinoza, the three-year-old colt pinned back his ears and sprinted clear of his rivals to win the classic by one and a quarter lengths.
Commanding Curve, a 37-1 longshot, charged home late to finish second while Danza, named after "Who's The Boss" actor Tony Danza, boxed on for third after trying to stick with California Chrome over the 2,000m journey on the Kentucky dirt.
Wicked Strong, the 6-1 second favourite named in honour of the Boston marathon victims, finished fourth after starting from the widest barrier but California Chrome was never truly threatened.
Unbeaten this season, California Chrome was installed as the 5-2 favourite after romping to victories in each of his four previous races, including last month's Santa Anita Derby.
When the "Run for the Roses" got under way, California Chrome broke quickly and settled in third place.
He made his move as the field of 19 runners turned for home, taking the lead with a breathtaking burst of acceleration before the shadows of the iconic Twin Spires as the crowd of almost 165,000 let out a mighty roar.
When California Chrome crossed the line to lift the Derby, it made his 77-year-old conditioner Art Sherman the oldest man to train the winner of the race.
The son of a Brooklyn barber, Sherman has spent a lifetime in racing but found little success on the track. He had never even had a runner in the Derby before this year, though he was an exercise rider for Swaps when he won the race in 1955.
Sherman slept with Swaps on a bed of straw on a four-day train trip from the California. This time he'll fly home on a chartered jet.
"This has to be the sweetest moment of my life," Sherman said. "To be my age and have something like this happen, what can you say?"
For Mexican-born jockey Espinoza, it was his second win in the Derby after he saluted on War Emblem in 2002.
The 41-year-old showed all his big race experience with a cool and calculated ride, keeping his mount out of harm's way before unleashing him in the stretch.
"I never dreamed I'd win a second Kentucky Derby, but here it is," Espinoza said.
California Chrome is not finished yet. Even before the colt had been draped with the winner's traditional garland of red roses, his owners declared he would go for the Triple Crown, comprising the Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
Only 11 horses, among them Secretariat, have pulled off the feat that has become the holy grail of American racing. The last horse to do it was Affirmed in 1978. - Reuters.
KENTUCKY DERBY RESULT
1 CALIFORNIA CHROME (Victor Espinoza)
2 COMMANDING CURVE (Shaun Bridgmohan)
3 DANZA (Joe Bravo)
4 WICKED STRONG (Rajiv Maragh)
Winning trainer: Art Sherman Time: 2min 3.66sec Winning margin: 1¼ — Reuters.