On Track with Johnny D: Case Against ‘Chrome



“It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races.” – Mark Twain


Twain probably could have added ‘presidential elections’ to his list of things affected by a difference of opinion. Heaven knows we’re in the homestretch of a doozy right now!

But, that’s a discussion for another time and another venue. In fact, some folks actually escape the madness by playing the horses!


When it comes to this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita there doesn’t figure to be much difference in opinion: California Chrome will be a short-priced favorite to win the race. He’s earned that level of respect by winning 6 consecutive races this year, including the Dubai World Cup!


Last out in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita, final local prep for the BC Classic, he whipped Dortmund like the proverbial red-headed stepchild, before sauntering home, reins comfortably gathered in jockey Victor Espinoza’s tiny hands. It was an equine tour de force; a profound statement that trainer Art Sherman, and his assistant and son Alan, had the California-bred 5-year-old as good as human hands could make him.


So, understanding all of that, why in the world would the connections of potentially 10 other Thoroughbreds spend a minimum of $150,000 each in entry fees for the privilege of facing ‘Chrome on November 5?


There are a couple of acceptable reasons for the investments. First, only 55% of the $6 million purse goes to the Classic winner. Substantial minor awards–including over $1 million to second, more than $500,000 to third and $300,000 to fourth, etc. ain’t hay!


Second, you’ve got to be in it to win it because you just never know! To paraphrase a quote from The Godfather Part II, ‘…if anything in this life is certain…if history has taught us anything…it’s that any horse can get beat.’ What if, on race day, California Chrome has a case of the sniffles and is forced to scratch? Or, how about if he stumbles out of the starting gate and jockey Espinoza trades a handful of mane for fistful of dirt? Or, what if ‘Chrome just doesn’t feel like running? Somebody’s else’s gotta win!


Then, there’s also that whole ‘difference of opinion’ thing to suggest that another horse besides the favorite just might be good enough to win the race on the square.


A horseplayer’s sworn duty is to find and to expose a favorite’s warts. Sometimes, as in the case of California Chrome, such imperfections are as invisible as D. B. Cooper. Following last week’s On Track blog, yours truly received the e-mail below from a respected handicapper and Xpressbet account holder. In it he takes a stand against California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, provides interesting evidence to support his opinion and even offers up Arrogate as the eventual 2016 BC Classic winner!


A correct difference of opinion can produce large pari-mutuel payoffs. In my (more than I’d like to admit) many decades playing the races, I’ve learned to respect contrary opinions, especially when they come from respected horseplayers and are levied against short-priced favorites.


The e-mail below states the case against ‘Chrome and exposes a wart or two on the champ. Read it and see if it alters your opinion regarding the Breeders’ Cup Classic outcome. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.


Just read your analysis of the BC races and I always find your articles interesting and informative.  You are in the vast majority when you think California Chrome is the best horse.  Here is why he is NOT the best horse and will be SOUNDLY beaten by Arrogate.

Arrogate only lost one race in his life and that was his first race where he got left at the gate and was flying late.  No horse has ever outrun Arrogate in the stretch and he only gets better as the distances get longer.  Although Santa Anita is Arrogate’s home track he would defeat California Chrome by a larger margin if the race was held in New York or at another track that was not speed favoring.  At 1 1/2 miles at Saratoga he would do the same to California Chrome as he did to the Travers field.  This is a race for the BIG money and possible Horse of the Year and who do you want your money on Mr. Baffert of Mr. Sherman?

The advantage California Chrome has is the speed favoring track plus he is a better breaker than Arrogate.  California Chrome is a front runner who runs his best races on the lead which I think he will again try to do in the Classic.  Mr. Bob Baffert also is very aware of this and you can be sure the instructions for Arrogate are to press him from the start and make it a two horse race.  This does offer some sort of chance to some of the others in the field.  The forgotten horse is Nyquist, who I don’t think is good enough, but he will get a good race shape and has never lost at Santa Anita.  The Reddam camp are no dummies and they know how the race is going to be run.  Frosted has ZERO chance in the Classic and I would be surprised to even see him run (Editor’s Note: just before posting it was announced that Frosted will contest the BC Classic).  Melatonin also has speed and loves SA so he could factor into the race depending how the horses break. 

California Chrome has NEVER won a BC race and he is not going to start now.  He has been superbly managed and seven million dollars of his earnings have come in Dubai against super weak competition.

While Arrogate may be stepping up in competition you can also rest assured California Chrome is also doing the same.

Here is a list of the 15 colts/horses/filly’s/mares that have run second to California Chrome in all of his lifetime wins.  Gander down the list and you will see it is far from a hall of fame collection.  Don’t forget the top horse on the list is an over the top six year old mare on a three race losing streak.

  1. Dortmund
  2. Beholder
  3. Dortmund
  4. Mubtaahij
  5. Storm Belt
  6. Imperative
  7. Lexie Lou
  8. Ride On Curlin
  9. Commanding Curve
  10. Hoppertunity
  11. Midnight Hawk
  12. Tamarando
  13. Life Is A Joy
  14. Moving Desert
  15. Charisma Code

Best wishes,



Race On!

On Track with Johnny D: Case Against ‘Chrome

On Track with Johnny D |

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