He came so close to becoming the first horse in 36 years to complete the Triple Crown, and now California Chrome is back on track, impressing onlookers as he prepares for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
It is seen as a career defining race, with a poor performance likely to be his last. Co-owner Perry Martin said: “It’s race by race now. A good ‘Classic’ and we’ll keep going, but a clunker and he’s off to the breeding shed.” Martin then suggested that a poor performance was unlikely, adding, “He’s getting super-sharp, and we expect his best ever.”
After impressive victories in the Kentucky Derby, when storming clear of the field, and again in the Preakness Stakes when winning in similar fashion, over 100,000 packed into Belmont Park for leg three of the Triple Crown. Sadly the dream failed to materialize in the Belmont Stakes, as California Chrome faded in the latter stage of the race to finish fourth. The step up in trip coupled with a hoof injury incurred during the race appeared to be more than reasonable excuses for the defeat.
A spell on the side-lines followed, with some doubting that the horse would be seen on the track again. Thankfully the recovery now seems complete, and after a prep-run in the Pennsylvania Derby at the end of September, confidence among connections is on the rise.
California Chrome completed his final piece of work at the Los Alamitos Racecourse, clocking a sharp five furlongs under jockey Victor Espinoza. Arriving at Santa Anita on Sunday, assistant trainer Alan Sherman was enthusiastic in his assessment of his Colt's condition when saying: “His work yesterday was amazing, I really feel he’s going to run a big race.” The father and son training team appear certain that they have their star back to his best as the big day approaches.
Records are set to tumble should ‘Chrome’ be successful. He would be the first 'Classic' winner since the mighty Curlin in 2007, to appear in all Triple Crown races before then going on to success in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He would also join two-time winner Tiznow as the only California-breds to win the race.
There’s little doubt that the horse will ‘act’ on the track. He’s three from three in 2014 with a combined winning distance of nearly 20 lengths. The last of those three wins was in the Santa Anita Derby in April.
If the Sherman’s have managed to get him back to his best, he is certain to play a huge part in Saturday’s race. Expect his jockey to ride him prominently. When Espinoza ‘kicks’ for home, millions will hold their breath. Wasn’t it the Mamas and the Papas that once sang; “California Dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.”