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Nov 21, 2014

Up the Backstretch: California Chrome not done, yet

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - For many people the Breeders' Cup marks the end of the thoroughbred racing season in North America. But don't tell that to the connections of California Chrome.

California Chrome, the winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, is not wrapping up his 2014 campaign until the end of November as his people are determined to have him win at least one Eclipse Award.

Trained by Art Sherman, the 3-year-old chestnut colt will start one more race this month at Del Mar with the hope of claiming his division's championship and possibly Horse of the Year.

California Chrome, owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, has been nominated to Del Mar's Hollywood Derby on Saturday, Nov. 29 with the Native Diver versus older horses the back up race.

To that end, California Chrome put in a half-mile workout Monday morning at Los Alamitos and was timed in 47 4/5 seconds.

"This was the strongest half-mile he ever worked. I think this is the first time since I've been on him he worked this good," jockey Victor Espinoza said.

Sherman got what he wanted from the Monday workout before sending his colt down to Del Mar for a workout next week.

"I was very impressed with his workout," Sherman noted. "Now we're all set to go to Del Mar. It's very close of Horse of the Year right now. I think we have a good chance for Horse of the Year."

The Hollywood Derby, formerly run at Hollywood Park, is a turf race for 3- year-olds over 1 1/8 miles. The Native Diver is also at 1 1/8 miles to be run over the main track.

Horse of the Year is wide open this season. Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan isn't an option after just four starts and missing significant time during the summer following colic surgery.

Also not in the running is Game On Dude, who the previous two years entered the Breeders' Cup Classic as the favorite but failed to secure a victory that could have given him the Eclipse Award he never won. Game On Dude's best Classic finish was second in 2011 as a 14-1 longshot.

California Chrome would appear to be a longshot to claim Horse of the Year honors. His drop off after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown may have been too deep a hole to climb out of and garner recognition as leading thoroughbred of 2014.

However, the colt was a close-up third in the Classic on Nov. 1 finishing just a neck behind Bayern and runner-up Toast of New York. Bayern, trained by Bob Baffert, is also a strong candidate for Horse of the Year but he too has some failings.

Whether a victory at Del Mar will be sufficient to get California Chrome back to the top of racing's mountain is one of the questions to be answered by the Eclipse Awards voters.

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