Arguably, the big chestnut colt looks better than ever twenty-four hours before his second attempt at the $10 million Dubai World Cup. A win would rank him as the highest-earning racehorse in history outside of Japan.
Given the year that California Chrome has had since the 2015 running of the Dubai World Cup, it’s hard to believe that his bid at the $6 million first-place prize of the world’s richest horse race was really only a year ago. It’s a better, badder Chrome that will head to the starting gate at Meydan tomorrow with a year of injuries, disappointment and heartache under his belt. The trials only seemed to begin with his less-than-perfect trip for second place in the 2015 World Cup, which was followed by a hoof bruise, abscess, a bone bruise and a very tired-looking horse.
But a layoff on some good Kentucky bluegrass didn’t just restore Chrome to his former glory — he hit the track in early 2016 not as a bouncy colt with everything to prove but a mature, fit athlete of a horse setting out to conquer all over again. He notched a win in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita for the first start of his five-year-old season, then shipped straight to Meydan halfway around the world to settle in.
In a trip remarkably similar to last year’s World Cup, Chrome ran a handicap prep at Meydan three-wide for most of the race — only this time, he came out on top under the wire with Victor Espinoza sitting cool.
It won’t be a walk in the park for California Chrome tomorrow — he’s facing an accomplished field including Grade I winners Frosted, Mshawish, Hopportunity and Keen Ice. Frosted cruised to a big win at Meydan in February 4; Keen Ice was routed on March 5 but looks to recover (and has a history of being an upsetter after his win over American Pharoah at Saratoga last summer). Keen Ice lost that race to Special Fighter, who is also entered in the World Cup. Also in the field are Mubtaahij, an echo from the 2015 Triple Crown trail, and Hong Kong-based Gun Pit, who finished second on March 5. Candy Boy, who finished fourth in last year’s World Cup, has returned for a second attempt at the big prize.
Hopportunity may be one to watch, thanks to his late-closing style. He only finished third in January’s San Pasqual to Chrome, but his late kick made up ground in a hurry and many believe that his style of running could prove to undo California Chrome at Meydan. He’s a bit of a dark horse right now without any races in Dubai under his belt. Should he win the Dubai World Cup, he would be the first horse to do so under the guidance of a female trainer — Dana Barnes, Bob Baffert’s right-hand woman who manages his Dubai string.
All in all, twelve horses will be contending for the world’s biggest purse tomorrow. Chrome’s drawn post position 11, which isn’t ideal, but also keeps him out of the crush of horses making for the rail. You can catch the live stream here, with the first post of the day starting at 8:40 AM EDT. The World Cup has a local post time of 9:00 PM, which is 1:00 PM EDT.