The visually impressive 12-length victory by California Chrome in the $180,000 Winter Challenge Stakes Dec. 17 at Los Alamitos Race Course also proved to be just as strong on paper, with the 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit earning the year's top Equibase Speed Figure.
Completing 1 1/16 miles in track-record time of 1:40.03 on fast dirt, California Chrome earned a 130 ESF, which is the best run this season (through Dec. 21).
That number surpasses the 129 Noble Bird earned in winning the Hagyard Fayette Stakes (gr. II) Oct. 29 at Keeneland, and the 129 posted by Tourist in winning the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 5 on the turf at Santa Anita Park.
For the week (Dec. 13-19), California Chrome finished nine points ahead of Imperial Hint, an allowance optional claiming race winner at Parx Racing; and Story to Tell, a starter allowance winner at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Sent off at 1-20 odds in the Winter Challenge, California Chrome and Victor Espinoza were content to track leaders while wide early before taking over in the turn and drawing off in the stretch in the prep California Chrome's expected career bow, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (gr. I) Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park.
The 130 is a career-best for California Chrome, who earned Horse of the Year honors in 2014 after winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), earning a 109; and the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), earning a 110.
This season, California Chrome has run seven straight races in which he's earned an ESF (or Timeform Rating equivalent) of 120 or higher. He earned a 126 Timeform Rating for his victory in this year's Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (UAE-I). He entered the Winter Challenge off a runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), where he earned a 122 ESF.