DubaI // California Chrome lived up to his trainer Art Sherman's word of a horse "returning five lengths better than last year" after running a convincing race in the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup.
His victory was even more remarkable as his jockey Victor Espinoza revealed he had to move him to the front earlier than he wanted to as he felt his saddle was slipping down the horse’s back.
“Turning for home, I couldn’t wait any longer and I had to go because I felt like the saddle was slipping,” he said.
“I was just trying to keep my balance and not move my body. I wasn’t that concerned about it [the slipped saddle], I just kept looking forward and thinking: ‘Where’s the wire’.
Espinoza had last year’s runner-up quickly out from the second widest draw of the 12 runners and kept him close behind the Frankie Dettori-ridden Mwashish until they turned for home in the 2,000-metre race.
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When he had him in front, it was all over as California Chrome strode majestically to win by three-and-three-quarter lengths from the Mike de Kock-trained Mubtaahij and Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity.
“Today it proves how he can run when he’s 100 per cent,” Espinoza said. “He won easy. I didn’t want to override him because I knew he was going to have a tough race today.”
The winner’s share of $6m pushed California Chrome’s career earnings to $12,532,650, eclipsing 2008 Dubai World Cup winner Curlin as the US all-time leading money earner.
“He is a once in a lifetime horse,” said Sherman. “It [all-time leading US earner] was a goal in the back of my mind. You think of all the great trainers in the history of this game and you really appreciate that it happened to us.”
Christophe Soumillon said the runner-up Mubtaahij was back to his best.
“It was an excellent run. I had a nice position but California Chrome is just a superb horse,” he said.
It was a disappointing night for the Godolphin. They ended up without a winner in six races.
Their Dubai World Cup hope, Frosted, trained in the United States by Kiaran McLaughlin could only finish fifth.
“The race went well,” said William Buick, the Godolphin jockey. “We were tracking California Chrome the whole way, but Frosted came off the bridle a little bit early. He wasn’t as good today and I’m not sure why.”
Frosted had won the prep race, the Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 convincingly in early February and was expected to pose the main threat to California Chrome.
Special Fighter trained by Emirati Musabah Al Muhairi, who saddled a double on the night, ran a cracking race to finish ahead of Frosted in fourth under Fernando Jara.
“I couldn’t have wished for a better effort from him,” Al Muhairi said. “He ran a great race and had some of the better rated horses struggling.”
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