California Chrome got hurt training on turf in England last summer and returns from a 287-day layoff in today’s San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita. The 2014 Horse of the Year is listed at 4-5 on the morning line and it will be no surprise if California Chrome supporters (aka “Chromies”) hammer him to the 1-5 range.

He’s training forwardly according to reports, recording a 6-furlong bullet work in 1:10 last weekend, but there’s a difference between racing and works. California Chrome has not won since 2014 and is eligible to be a little rusty – I’ll try to beat him in the late Pick 4.

#5 Hoppertunity is the most likely upsetter. After winning last year’s San Pasqual, he went off form for Bob Baffert, turning in a couple of unplaced efforts versus lesser foes last summer, but Hoppertunity began to turn things during the fall, recording a good second to Race Day in the Fayette (G2) on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard before just missing in the November 27 Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs, earning 104 and 103 BRIS Speed ratings. I expect him to show up with his best.

#8 Imperative offered a nice closing kick for second in the Native Diver (G3) last time and Alfa Bird could ensure a decent pace today from his rail post. Since being transferred to Richard Baltas, Imperative’s Speed numbers have increased and the 6-year-old gelding looks capable of making at least a minor impact.

The Sham Stakes (G3) kicks off the late Pick 4 and nine sophomores will be competing for 17 points (10-4-2-1) in the Kentucky Derby qualifying race.

I’ll take a swing at an upset with #6 Laoban, who exits a runner-up in a December 5 maiden special weight at Los Alamitos. The Uncle Mo colt moved forward significantly off his debut, displaying good speed from the start, and I’m expecting further improvement today with no confirmed front-runners in the Sham field. Look for Laoban to flash forward at the start with Tyler Baze and the price figures to be right (15-1 morning line).

#3 Let’s Meet in Rio rallied to catch Laoban last time and makes his 3-year-old bow for Baffert with first-time Lasix. Don’t count his first two starts at a sprint against him – the well-bred Flatter colt prefers two-turn distances – and Let’s Meet in Rio figures to finishing fast today with Kent Desormeaux. He rates the best chance at catching the speed.

Late Pick 4

I’ll make a straight wager on Laoban and will play the following Pick 4 for $48.

Race 6 .50 Pick 4: 3,6 with 2,3,5,7,9,10 with 5,8 with 4,6,7,13 ($48)

Good luck!

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