A group of 32 horses, ranging from a trio grade III winners to an 0-for-12 maiden, have been nominated to possibly take on California Chrome in the $100,000 Winter Challenge Dec. 17 at Los Alamitos Race Course.
Enticed by Los Alamitos' offer of $10,000 to any horse who finishes the 1 1/16-mile race—which was written to give California Chrome a local prep for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28—track officials have been pleased with the interest generated.
"(Racing secretary) Bob Moreno did a great job and we restructured the purse payout to give more incentive," said Brad McKinzie, vice president and general manager of Los Alamitos' afternoon Thoroughbred racing. "We obviously knew we had an uphill battle to fill the race, so we did all we could to encourage the nominations. However, it's a long way from nominations to entries."
The race will draw Dec. 14, after entries are finalized, and McKinzie said he expects to get seven or eight to run in the Winter Challenge.
California Chrome, the seven-time grade/group I winner, obviously stands out from the 33 nominees, but three other graded winners are also on the list—Point Piper, Poshsky, and Prospect Park. Seven other stakes winners are nominated, along with several other Southern California regulars from the claiming and allowance ranks.
The 2016 Longacres Mile (gr. III) winner for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Point Piper has been racing in the graded stakes ranks since October of 2015. The 6-year-old son of Giant's Causeway most recently finished second to grade I winner Midnight Storm in the Native Diver (gr. III) at Del Mar Nov. 27, which came after a sixth-place run in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 4 at Santa Anita Park.
Poshsky most recently won a $50,000 claiming race at Del Mar Nov. 24, but has been in stakes competition for much of his 33-race career, which includes victories in the 2015 Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields and the 2016 Crystal Water Stakes at Santa Anita.
Prospect Park, who earned his grade III on grass in the 2015 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar, has also run well at Los Alamitos in the past. The 4-year-old son of Tapit is winless in three starts this year, but was a nose second to Gimme Da Lute in his only race at the Orange County racetrack—the 2015 Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II).
Other stakes winners nominated include Avanti Bello, Blue Tone, El Huerfano, Grazen Sky, Papacoolpapacool, Solid Wager, and Ultimate Luck. The only horse nominated without a victory is Bob Baffert-trained Uninvited, a 3-year-old Misremembered gelding who has five seconds and three thirds in 12 starts.