October 27, 2014

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Alan Sherman couldn't be happier with California Chrome leading up to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

''Chrome trained like a monster today,'' he said Monday. ''It's unbelievable. And it wasn't just today. It's been the last few weeks. He keeps getting stronger and stronger. I think he's coming into the race just as good, if not better, than he was into the Derby and Preakness.''

That could spell bad news for California Chrome's rivals in the 1 1/4-mile Classic on Saturday, the richest race in North America.

California Chrome was the darling of the racing world in the spring with his Triple Crown bid. The 3-year-old colt with a humble pedigree and a pair of blue-collar owners was a captivating story as he posted convincing wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

But it ended with a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. He suffered a hoof injury in the race, sending him to sidelines until the Pennsylvania Derby in late September when he ran sixth.

California Chrome shipped to Santa Anita from his home base at Los Alamitos in Orange County on Sunday and went out at first light Monday for a jog under stout restraint by exercise rider Willie Delgado. Sherman, who assists his 77-year-old father Art, said the serious preparations are already completed. It will be easy gallops from now until race day.

California Chrome is three for four here, including a victory in the Santa Anita Derby that was his springboard into the Kentucky Derby.

Speculation swirled in recent days that the Classic could be California Chrome's final race. Co-owner Perry Martin reportedly said the horse would head off to stud duty if he does not run well in the Classic.

''I haven't heard a thing from the owners, other than what I read on Facebook,'' Sherman said.

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FLIGHT DELAY: A cracked windshield scrambled the flight schedules for several Breeders' Cup runners, including the New York-based contingent of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

The plane was forced to make an emergency stop in Lexington, Kentucky, to replace the window. The Belmont Park horses from the barns of Mott and Chad Brown were due to fly out Monday. The repair job delayed their departure until later in the day.

''You get excited but you try to get everyone there in one piece,'' Mott said. ''Get them on the truck, on the plane, get them unloaded without having them stick a foot through something.''

The Mott contingent includes Cigar Street in the Classic and Close Hatches in the $2 million Distaff on Friday.

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FANTASY HORSES: Most sports have spawned fantasy leagues.

Why not horse racing?

Registration is open for the ''Million Dollar Finish'' keyed to the Classic. The prize is $1 million to the fan who can correctly predict the first 10 finishers in the Classic, in exact order. Players can submit their picks up until the post time of 8:40 p.m. EDT Saturday.

Players will also be asked for the final time of the Classic, a guess to be used as a tiebreaker.

No purchase is necessary. Full rules and registration are available at MillionDollarFinish.com.

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