On Wednesday morning under the sultry skies of Dubai, trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza reunited with the chestnut colt who has taken his connections on an unfathomable journey. They already saw California Chrome flaunt shades of his old self when he won the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita Park on January 9. On Thursday, the 2014 Horse of the Year takes another swing at earning global glory.
The winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes has returned to the Dubai for the second straight year and will have his final prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26 when he faces what figures to be seven over-matched opponents in the sixth race at Meydan Racecourse Thursday.
The 1 ¼-miles race is set to go to post at 12:55 p.m. EST and will air on TVG.
California Chrome, won his seasonal debut at Santa Anita almost seven weeks ago in his first outing since finishing second to Prince Bishop in last year’s Dubai World Cup. The now 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit was then shipped to England for a slated run at Royal Ascot but ended up missing the rest of the 2015 season due to a bruised cannon bone.
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During his recovery, California Chrome got some new connections on his side as Taylor Made Farm bought out the minority share Steve Coburn had in the colt and are now partnered with majority owner Perry Martin. The charismatic colt was sent to Taylor Made to recover and, once he returned to Art Sherman’s care last October, those closest to him marveled at how much condition the champion had regained.
“He is a bigger and stronger horse this year,” said assistant, Alan who is son of trainer, Art Sherman. “He has done everything we have asked of him and are very pleased with his preparations. We decided to run this week rather than on Super Saturday to give him a month between races before the World Cup.
“We could not be happier with him and are really excited about having another crack at the Dubai World Cup.”
Unsurprisingly California Chrome heads the weights, carrying 7kg more than his seven opponents with the handicapper giving him 60kg – the same weight that two-time Horse of the Year Curlin carried in this race eight years ago.
Espinoza flew in to Dubai to partner the horse in his prep race.
“He is carrying a lot of weight,” said Espinoza at Meydan on Wednesday morning after California Chrome schooled in the Parade Ring. “He is carrying 15-20lbs more than any other horse in the race but other than that he is in good shape.”
California Chrome has won 10 of 19 career starts with $6,442,650 in earnings. He became a national darling during his Triple Crown attempt in 2014 but finished in a dead-head for fourth in that year’s Belmont Stakes behind winner Tonalist.