DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome won the $300,000 Hollywood Derby by two lengths in his turf debut at Del Mar on Saturday, strengthening his bid to earn Horse of the Year honors.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.88 and paid $3.40, $2.60 and $2.10 as the 3-5 favorite.
''Oh, was he ready to roll,'' Espinoza said. ''He just turned it on and I knew we were home. You can see now that grass is no problem. Grass, dirt, synthetic, you name it. This horse likes it and he'll run on it.''
Canada-bred Lexie Lou, the lone female in the field of six, returned $3 and $2.60, while Taleo was another length back in third and paid $3.60 to show.
California Chrome carried high weight of 122 pounds, as did four of his five rivals in the Grade 1 race for 3-year-olds. Sawyer's Hill was fourth, followed by Cabral and Flamboyant.
The victory, worth $180,000, increased California Chrome's career earnings to $4,222,650, with nine wins in 16 starts. It was his fourth Grade 1 win of the year. He was coming off a third-place finish in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
California Chrome went to the lead in the first furlong, but gave it up to Sawyer's Hill. California Chrome remained in stalking position until the far turn, where he surged to the lead in the upper stretch.
''I was confident,'' winning trainer Art Sherman said. ''We're here on our home ground, he's got all the people here and he's such a favorite with everybody. It makes me feel good to know I can run him on the grass. Just another option.''
Sherman said the options for California Chrome include the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March or Royal Ascot.
''We're going to definitely run him another year,'' he said.
Steve Coburn, California Chrome's co-owner, said Saturday's race was for the fans.
In the $200,000 Native Diver Stakes, 2-1 favorite Big Cazanova led all the way to win the Grade 3 race for older horses by 3 1/4 lengths.
Ridden by Elvis Trujillo, Big Cazanova ran nine furlongs in 1:49.28 on the synthetic surface and paid $6.20, $3.60 and $2.60.
Blue Tone returned $3.80 and $2.60, while Avanzare was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.40 to show.
The victory, worth $120,000, increased Big Cazanova's career earnings to $393,692, with four wins in 20 starts.
In the $150,000 Jimmy Durante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, 21-1 shot Ol' Fashion Gal won by a neck under Joe Talamo.
Ol' Fashion Gal ran one mile on the turf in 1:37.27 and paid $45.60, $15.40 and $8.
Rainha Da Bateria, the 7-5 favorite in the 11-horse field, returned $3.60 and $2.80, while Don't Blame Me was another three-quarters of a length back in third and paid $6.20 to show.
The victory, worth $90,000, increased Ol' Fashion Gal's career earnings to $123,850, with two wins in three starts.