Edited Press Release

California Chrome is at the ready for his first race in nine months Saturday despite El Nino’s futile effort to turn racing into El Nono.

“We’ve had five and two-tenths inches of rain since the early part of the week,” said Santa Anita Track Superintendent Dennis Moore Thursday morning, as rain stopped and the sun broke through, illuminating snow on the apex of the San Gabriel Mountains, creating a picture-postcard setting. “The track was sealed after the last race Sunday.”

Still, the main track has not been open for workouts for four days, from Monday through Thursday morning.

California Chrome, meanwhile, got in his final major breeze for Saturday’s San Pasqual (G2) prior to last Saturday’s first race, going six furlongs under regular rider Victor Espinoza in a snappy and stylish 1:10.04.

“We got a good draw and I don’t think the track will be a problem,” said trainer Art Sherman, who has never run California Chrome on an off track. “So far, everything is good.”

Eight horses were entered for the 1 1/16-mile San Pasqual, but the status of Imperative is up in the air. Richard Baltas, atop the Santa Anita trainer standings with five wins from 12 runners through seven racing days, said Imperative “probably won’t run” because of a sore foot, “but if he’s good by race day, I’ll run him.”

Trainer Victor Garcia expects longshot Alfa Bird to be close to or on the lead from his rail post position.

“Whether we’re in front depends on California Chrome,” Garcia said. “I think he’s going to be fresh coming off a long layoff, but I think we’ll go to the lead behind California Chrome. It all depends on how the track plays, too.”