"He," of course, is California Chrome, who in 2015 went through more plot twists than a suspense novel in one of the strangest campaigns ever seen for a reigning American Horse of the Year. That's behind him now, and if the San Pasqual is any indication, 2016 is going to be quite different.
To be sure, Chrome didn't beat a stellar field, nor did he burn up the track. He undoubtedly needed the race. Nonetheless, the performance was vintage Chrome, from the effortless tactical speed that secured a favorable position early to the burst coming off the turn that put his rivals away. Given that he has always run better with a race or two under his girth, this race certainly augurs well for his future performances.
For Art Sherman, the Santa Anita winner's circle was a place of unalloyed joy. His family is back together again---four generations of Shermans and the magnificent horse who has played such a special role in his life at an age when most people have headed off to retirement. As for Victor Espinoza, he has to be feeling like the luckiest jockey in the United States right now. After riding American Pharoah, almost any other horse would be anticlimactic, but this is California Chrome, the horse who rekindled his career at the very top of American racing---and he need not choose between these two splendid mounts, both of which have meant so much to him. Talk about having one's cake and eating it too!
Team Chrome has undergone some changes, with Taylor Made Farm taking the place of Steve Coburn as minority owner. There are new silks, too, and perhaps some racegoers will miss seeing the familiar green donkey grinning from Espinoza's back. But with all due respect to Chrome's owners, the important parts of the team haven't changed. Ultimately, it's all about the horse and the people who work with him day by day, and they're back together for one more year of trying to write racing history. If today's win is any indication, the final chapter is going to be something to look forward to.