DEL MAR, CALIF. >> California Chrome took the lead out of the gate and ran away with the Pacific Classic.
The winningest horse in North America history, California Chrome won the $1 million race by five lengths at Del Mar on Saturday for his 14th victory in 23 career starts.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.13 and paid $4.20, $2.60 and $2.20 as the 3-5 favorite in the field of nine. Espinoza finally won the stakes races in his 16th try.
Horse of the Year in 2014 after winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the 5-year-old chestnut extended his winning streak to five races, including a hard-fought win over Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap on July 23.
Espinoza, who won the 2015 Triple Crown riding American Pharoah, knew from the start the California Chrome was destined for the win.
"I was kind of surprised that I opened up two or three lengths right out of the gate," Espinoza said. "At that time, I was very confident. ... He's just an amazing horse," Espinoza said. "He won so easy today. I'm going to say this now - he is the best horst I've ever ridden."
Defending champ Beholder returned $3.20 and $2.60, while Dortmund was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.40 to show.
"She ran a great race," Beholder trainer Gary Stevens said. "I was hoping that she'd have that huge kick again like she did last year, but not this time. But it was a gutty performance for her."
Trainer Art Sherman also won his first Pacific Classic, as did owners Perry Martin and Kentucky's Taylor Made Farm.
"How can you say anything more about him?" Sherman said. "He is just the best horse in the country."
California Chrome added to his North American record earnings with the $600,000 share, moving to $13,252,650. He also became the third horse to win the Pacific Classic from the No. 1 post.
"I saw the hold he had on the first turn and he was just cruising," Sherman said. "I said, 'It's all over."'
Harmonize won the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks, covering 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.71. Trained by William Mott and ridden by Junior Alvarado, Harmonize rallied in the final furlong to overtake two other horses. She paid $9.20, $5.40, and $3.40.
Ashleyluvssugar won the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by a nose at 2:16.11 on the 1 3/8-mile turf track. Trained by Peter Eurton and ridden by Gary Stevens, Ashleyluvssugar took the lead in the stretch and a photo finish over Metaboss, paying $7, $4, and $2.80.