California Chrome comes to Dubai having ‘never carried so much’ weight, according to trainer
Trainer Art Sherman departed America for Dubai on Monday unburdened by the weight of expectation surrounding California Chrome’s first run in a handicap at Meydan on Thursday.
The Dubai World Cup favourite was entered alongside eight others in the 0-95 handicap over 2,000 metres and the five-year-old chestnut is set to carry 60kgs, the heaviest load he has shouldered in his 19-race career. He will have to give at least 7.5kgs to his rivals.
The last US horse to prep for the world’s most valuable race in a handicap in Dubai was subsequent World Cup winner Curlin, who also carried 60ks to victory in the Jaguar Trophy at Nad Al Sheba in 2008.
Assistant trainer Alan Sherman — Art’s son — applied the finishing touches on Friday ahead of California Chrome’s first run at Meydan since he was second to Prince Bishop in last season’s Dubai World Cup. The son of Lucky Pulpit blazed half a mile in 47.2 seconds under regular work rider Dihigi Gladney.
Jockey Victor Espinoza was expected to fly out on Monday, also, and with owner Perry Martin and a team from part-owners Taylor Made stud also expected to be at Meydan, the Chromie contingent is set to be significant. And with good reason, too, according to Sherman Sr.
“He’s never carried so much in a race before but with Dihigi on board he has 150lbs (68kgs) on his back every day anyway,” he said. “He’s been training great, has been forward in his training and is right on schedule. I know weight is a denominator and it kills horses at some point but I think you’re going to see a champion run from him this Thursday.”
California Chrome has run just once since the World Cup due to injury and convalescence, when he was an easy winner of the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita six weeks ago. Thursday’s handicap target was picked over an appearance next week on Super Saturday in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge as the Shermans felt California Chrome would benefit from an extra week’s rest ahead of World Cup night on March 26.
With fellow American World Cup hopeful Keen Ice, who had his first gallop at Meydan on Monday, and UAE Derby winner Mubtaahij set for Super Saturday, the Shermans appear to have made a wise decision.
Of California Chrome’s potential eight rivals, only Godolphin’s Think Ahead and Korean raider Success Story regularly set the pace. The way the race may well pan out favours California Chrome, and would allow Espinoza to take up his customary position just off the pace.
“I just know he is a different horse to last year,” Art Sherman said. “He’s stronger and needed that rest. It meant a lot to him to get that R& R. It’ll be important to tune him up and I hope he can dominate the race at his own pace.”
Elsewhere on the $US985,000 (Dh3.6m) seven-race card, Safety Check could renew rivalry with South African challenger Harry’s Son in defence of his crown in the Zabeel Mile. Safety Check beat Harry’s Son by a length and three quarters in the Al Fahidi Fort a month ago, but it was the first run since March for Harry’s Son after he underwent the punishing quarantine process from South Africa.
Godolphin’s Marking is also primed to start in the dirt handicap over 1,400 metres after he unseated James Doyle coming out of the stalls two weeks ago. Marking is considered a Dubai Golden Shaheen prospect by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
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