First, America’s Horse of the Year. Next, the world. Kristen Kovatch checks in on the now 4-year-old colt in advance of Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup.
America’s favorite racehorse has set his sights on the Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race with $10 million as the purse. ‘Chrome’ arrived in the United Arab Emirates on March 19 after a 19-hour jaunt by air from Los Angeles, looking as fresh and ready as ever. With just one workout scheduled before Saturday’s mile and a quarter, Chrome had better be on his toes and ready for an international showdown.
He’s not the only champion likely to be headed for the World Cup. Also entered are last year’s Dubai World Cup champion African Story, 2014 Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia, champion Japan dirt horse Hokko Tarumae, and Group I winners Lea (USA,) Prince Bishop (UAE) and Side Glance (AUS.) Several of these horses are already World Cup veterans.
California Chrome seemed to take to Meydan’s dirt track well on Saturday, March 21st, when he worked with exercise rider Willie Delgado after being released from routine 48-hour quarantine. The track has been notoriously difficult for foreign horses to adjust to (the entire facility only opened in 2010 and the dirt track was completely redone just a year ago) but Chrome is taking things in characteristic stride. Alan Sherman (son and assistant to Chrome’s head trainer Art Sherman) is optimistic right now about the 4-year-old’s ability to take to the surface on race day.
Still, some of Chrome’s critics aren’t as optimistic: Will he be able to overcome the ‘Dubai curse’? The ‘curse’ suggests that the long and grueling journey to and from the track itself as well as the race itself tends to take a lot out of U.S. horses in particular–an informal track saying states that a trip to Dubai in March uses up a horse for the rest of the year. Historically, there’s some truth to the superstition. Many American horses run at Dubai and never run again. Is it the breeding? The conditioning? It’s unclear, but it’s interesting to note that there are many horses from other nations who already have a World Cup under their belts.
Hopefully, that won’t be Chrome’s story. It’s rumored that the big chestnut could be in contention to run Royal Ascot. If Chrome’s connections decide to take this route, the horse would be following in Animal Kingdom’s footsteps, an American-bred and raced horse who won the Kentucky Derby as a 3-year-old and then the Dubai World Cup in 2013 as a 4-year-old. He finished 11th at Ascot. Sherman has already mentioned in interviews that Chrome will retire after his 4-year-old season, so if the colt is going to run anywhere else internationally it has to be now.
Other American winners in Dubai have included Cigar (1996), Silver Charm (1998), Captain Steve (2001), Pleasantly Perfect (2004), Roses in May (2005) and Well Armed (2009). If Chrome can pull off a victory on Saturday, he’ll be in excellent company.
Chrome worked the main track at Meydan lightly on March 24, after which Alan Sherman gave this interview, sounding optimistic about Chrome’s chances: