The 2016 Pacific Classic promised to be one of two things: an affirmation of California Chrome, or the most exciting upset of the entire year. Going off as the even money favorite, the Art Sherman trainee responded to the presence of Beholder and Dortmund by leading the field the entire way at the Del Mar race. The best three horses finished in the top three for those smart enough to box them all together for a big payout.
It was a slightly messy start, but California Chrome emerged from the early stages with a clear line to the front of the pack. He would take them out on a swift half-mile at :47.29 and demanded a strong pace from Beholder, a 3/1 third choice and Dortmund at 2/1. Those three were clearly a notch above the rest. It wasn’t even really all that close.
Leading by three lengths as they broke out of the back stretch, California Chrome sat comfortably in first and the drama increased as Beholder and Dortmund made a big move to push the pace entering the final sprint. But Victor Espinoza barely had to ask his horse for anything, and he rocketed down the stretch, with an unreal canter towards the finish line to dominate the 2016 Pacific Classic and earn the win.
It was the first time that Beholder posted back-to-back losses in her entire career. The champion mare last placed behind Stellar Wind at the Clement Hirsch Stakes. Dortmund, who drove California Chrome to the wire at the San Diego Handicap, simply didn’t have the gusto he had showed in that race. To put it simply, there was never any doubt who owned this race.
As the winner of the 2016 Pacific Classic, California Chrome has booked a free pass to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s assumed that Beholder and Dortmund will both find their way in to that $6 million race as well by the time we get to the world championships.
“He’s just Chrome,” Sherman said gleefully after booking the 2016 Pacific Classic victory. “I just can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to have him. I’m almost sure he’ll be in the Hall of Fame, with all the records and everything. It will be great to say, ‘Hey, I trained a horse in the Hall of Fame.’ It’s a great privilege.”
California Chrome paid out $4.20, $2.60, and $2.20 across the board. Beholder returned $3.20 and $2.60, and Dortmund rewarded $2.40 to show in the 2016 Pacific Classic.