California Chrome - Photo by Bunny Hinzman
Yes. But…Reigning Horse of the Year, California Chrome, completed his final work in North America on March 13 before leaving for the prestigious Dubai World Cup (Gr-I). The impressive chestnut colt recorded a seven furlong gallop on Los Almitos’ dirt oval. In front of a crowd of fifty fans, California Chrome completed the work in 1:23.80. “He worked excellent today,” trainer Art Sherman said. “In the final work before Dubai, he looked awesome. It was pretty impressive.” The trainer also commented, “He's a lot stronger horse right now. He's been training awesome. It's about as good as I've seen him train since I've had him.”
Trainer Art Sherman stated the near-Triple Crown winner would ship to Dubai on March 17. He also said the colt would work once at Meydan, likely over four furlongs, three days out from the Dubai World Cup which will be held on March 28.
California Chrome has not lost any respect, even when he finished third in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). The son of Lucky Pulpit was beaten narrowly by fellow three-year-olds Bayern and the international challenger, Toast of New York. The Kentucky Derby winning California Chrome was three and one-half lengths ahead of the unfortunate Shared Belief.
At the end of November, he erased all doubts of his worthiness for Horse of the Year and Three-Year-Old Male when he won the Hollywood Derby (GI), held at Del Mar. Making the switch over to turf, he was anxious to establish the early lead on the inside. However, running into the first turn, he surrendered the pace to Sawyer’s Hill. Through the middle of the race, he remained in his usual stalking position.
Into the final turn, he closed in on the pacesetter and made his bid coming into the home straight. California Chrome achieved the lead coming into the stretch run and drew away. With command, he won by two lengths over Lexie Lou. His final time for the nine furlong contest was a good 1:47.88.
However, his most recent start does raise a concern for his chances in Dubai. California Chrome was a soundly defeated runner-up to a talented Shared Belief in the San Antonio Invitational Stakes (GII) in early February. Though under a slight hold, California Chrome looked exceptional throughout the early stages of the race.
Entering the final turn, jockey Victor Espinoza allowed California Chrome to advance prematurely. The brilliant chestnut took the lead by a half-length with ease and looked as if he was the decided winner. Mike Smith aboard Shared Belief wisely followed not far behind, and when California Chrome tired nearing the wire, the dark bay rival took over and achieved victory.
Despite coming off a two month absence from race day, California Chrome seemed supremely fit. One cannot doubt he will be well-prepared for the Dubai World Cup at the end of this month.
Any doubts regarding his chances in the world’s richest race lie not with his ability, but the ride his jockey may give him. Previous starts, such as the Belmont and San Antonio, California Chrome was not been able to overcome his rides. In the early running of the Belmont, California Chrome acquired a lucrative position on the rail stalking the pace. However, Espinoza allowed his mount to become complacent and subsequently he lost his position. Trapped behind pacesetters establishing slow fractions, California Chrome was unable to get into a comfortable stride and was eventually forced to travel five paths wide around Belmont’s exhaustingly wide final turn.
Assuming California Chrome is physically well-prepared for the Dubai World Cup, and his jockey is up to the challenge, it is easy to imagine he has a strong chance at taking the winner’s share of the $10 million purse.