Runner-up at the 2015 World Cup, and with an official rating of 121 – the highest in this year’s renewal – Califonia Chrome is going to be hard to beat in the $10million world’s richest horse race.
His story is a strange one in that, as good as he undoubtedly is, there is a nagging suspicion the best is yet to come. Obviously, that could be at Meydan tonight.
After last year’s World Cup he was sent to England for an ultimately aborted trip to Royal Ascot. Trainer Art Sherman had not wanted the horse to go.
He was injured and, for a while, appeared likely to be retired but connections persevered and he
returned to Sherman to resume his racing career.
That resumption began in January at Santa Anita with a smooth success. Then, unlike last year when he arrived just before the World Cup, he was dispatched to Dubai at the end of January and went on to win a 2000m handicap at Meydan on February 25.
Assistant trainer Alan Sherman explained: “He is a different horse this year; much bigger and stronger. We decided to get a Meydan run into him before the World Cup this time so he has been here two months and is nicely acclimatised.
California Chrome draws 11 for #DubaiWorldCup - three horses have won it from there.— Laura King (@LauraKingDXB) March 23, 2016
“We targeted a handicap over the same 2000m as the World Cup and he won well. The plan has always been to make the World Cup his third start of 2016; we really believe a horse peaks on his third outing after a break which he obviously had after England.”
American Pharoah won the American Triple Crown last year but California Chrome went close in 2014. When winning the first leg, the Kentucky Derby, he guaranteed Sherman’s place in the history books as the oldest ever trainer of a Triple Crown race. Two weeks later, he followed up in the second leg, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico but could not complete the set. Sent off a hot favourite for the 2400m Belmont Stakes, everything seemed to be according to plan until, seemingly, his stamina failed him in the final 300m.
Alan Sherman added: “The Triple Crown challenge was great but sadly he could not do it. He probably just did not stay the 2400m at Belmont.”
“His getting injured in England has probably proved a blessing; he is a much more complete and furnished horse this year. Everything has gone really smoothly and we could not be more happy with him.”
When second last year he was drawn widest of all, nine of nine and was not helped by the way the race panned out.
He had to work hard to get in a handy position and could not sustain his effort in the final 100m, when the winner, Prince Bishop, flew home.
The draw has not done him many favours this time either with just Teletext on his outside. He was the 11th name unveiled on Wednesday, leaving Art Sherman few options.
He said: “If you have the best horse the draw matters less. And we think we have the best horse.”
Given that horses trained in America have won the Dubai World Cup on nine occasions and Godolphin have owned the winner of the world’s richest horse race six times, Frosted could be the one to side with this year.
Trained in the States by Kiaran McLaughlin, Godolphin’s Frosted has been based at Charlie Appleby’s Al Marmoon Stables since arriving in January.
The original plan was two runs and then the World Cup. However, he was so impressive in winning the Al Maktoum Challenge Round II on February 4, breaking the track record in the process, McLaughlin had a change of heart.
McLaughlin said: “We thought he would actually need that first run so to do what he did was amazing. We then decided to just put him away for the big race.”
McLaughlin, a former multiple UAE Champion Trainer, won the 2007 Dubai World Cup with Invasor so certainly knows what it takes to win the race.
“It’s hard to describe the fabulous, priceless feeling of winning the Dubai World Cup with an American-based horse for Sheikh Hamdan at the family’s home,” McLaughlin said. “They are so passionate about the racing industry and their horses. I’d put winning the Dubai World Cup right up there with the Kentucky Derby someday. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
However, he may not be the strongest of this year’s American challengers with bookmakers certainly favouring California Chrome.
Second in the race last year, on his UAE debut, trainer Art Sherman has changed tact this time around and California Chrome has already won a 2000m handicap at Meydan this year. That was in late February and the equivalent race to that won by Curlin in 2008 before he won the World Cup.
Chrome galloped on the main track at Meydan and Art Sherman admitted he was visibly more
relaxed than previous outings.
Sherman said: “He was stirred up a little bit yesterday (Thursday).
“Maybe because there were a lot of people around him. I tried to keep everyone away a little bit today. Tomorrow we will jog him at the little training track right near our barn. We go about 15 minutes just warm him up. He likes to train every day, it keeps him relaxed.”
The rest of the American challenge looks particularly strong this year and also includes Mshawish, a Meydan turf winner in 204. He has since ‘reinvented’ himself as a dirt performer, most recently winning the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, he will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, already a Dubai World Cup winner on three occasions – Dubai Millennium in 2000, Moon Ballad is 2003 and, most recently, on Electrocutionist in 2006. All three being Godolphin horses.
Also representing The Stars and Stripes is Keen Ice, the only horse to defeat last year’s Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.
That was in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes which was, remarkably, only his second career success.
His UAE debut was uninspiring, to say the least, with a well beaten seventh in Al Maktoum Challenge III on Super Saturday. He has to do better than that but does look in need of a relentless early gallop to aim at which is not guaranteed.
That Super Saturday race was won by Special Fighter who, basically, made all under Fernando Jara for trainer Musabah Al Muhairi.
Clearly the apple of his trainer’s eye, he remains a hard horse to predict as everything went right for him in that race.
Al Muhairi said: “He does not have to lead so is quite versatile, tactically. We have always thought he was a Group One horse and he showed that on Super Saturday.
“It is really exciting to have a genuine World Cup candidate.”
Last year’s UAE Derby winner, the Mike de Kock-trained Mubtaahij, has not fired in either start this year but is another who should not be totally discounted.
However, the American-trained runners would appear to hold all aces in the 2016 Dubai World Cup.
The milliners are manic and the tailors tied up as the Dubai World Cup returns to the iconic Meydan racecourse this Saturday.
Last year Prince Bishop, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum and ridden by William Buick and, took the spoils on home turf for the Godolphin stable.
One of the biggest days on the UAE’s sporting calendar, the Dubai World Cup can be a slightly overwhelming experience for first-timers so Sport360 have enlisted the help of Dubai Eye 103.8 presenter Chris McHardy to offer five top tips for surviving at Meydan.
With 80,000 plus race goers flocking to Meydan you can imagine the logistical nightmare facing organisers come 10pm. Booking a Careem or Uber taxi to pick you up at a set location and time will not only save you the headache of queuing for hours but also ensure your are home at a reasonable hour. It is a school night after all.
Alternatively, if you’re down with the cool kids and plan on partying the night away with Janet Jackson at the post-racing concert then again make travel arrangements in advance. Your dancing feet will thank me later.
While Dubai World Cup night is as much about the vibrant social scene as it is the world-class racing, it’s well worth keeping the official racing handbook close to hand.
Not only will it win you brownie points among the true horse racing aficionados, but will also ensure you’re not left with that nagging feeling that you’re missing out come the start bell.
There is also no greater thrill than selecting a winner on the night, especially if that means getting one over friends or those who claim to be ‘in the know’.
This is a once-a-year chance to lose your inhibitions and go all out in the style stakes. The weirder and wackier the better. Two-time reigning Best Dressed Male, Marlon Weir, is the very epitome of that.
Those who put in the most effort and originality into their World Cup outfits will be rewarded handsomely. A Jaguar F-Type coupe for a weekend, a Longines watch and cash prices are all up for grabs in the Jaguar Style Stakes.
It pays to look cool on World Cup night.
Get there early. And no, that’s not just to avoid the heavy traffic on the journey in but, more importantly, it gives you a chance to sample the awe-inspiring Meydan Racecourse in all of its glory.
The mile-long grandstand, which opened in 2010, is the biggest anywhere in the world. It’s a thing of beauty although capturing all of it in a photo is nigh on impossible. The challenge has been set.
Getting there before the masses gives you the rare opportunity to embrace the calm before the storm, and of course scout for the perfect vantage point.
Gates open at noon with the first race, the Group 1 Dubai Kahayla Classic, scheduled for 3:45pm GST.
I’m a firm believer in living in the moment, but such is the glitz, glamour, pomp and ceremony of the night you’d be foolish not to pocket a camera or fully-charged smartphone.
Whether it’s the horses battling for supremacy on the track or the fashionistas seeking your attention off it, the World Cup is an all-out attack on the senses. Making sure you document every bit of it is simply a must. If anything, it will help give your Instagram following a boost.
Chris McHardy is a Sports Presenter for Dubai Eye 103.8. He’ll be part of the team covering the Dubai World Cup live from Meydan Racecourse on Saturday. Their coverage gets underway from 4pm GST.