Ascot, England // California Chrome has yet to put back on the weight he lost in Dubai as the American challenger gears up for a tilt at the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at the Royal Ascot in two weeks.
California Chrome had his first public outing in Britain when he was partnered in a racecourse gallop by Frankie Dettori in tandem with Solario Stakes winner Aktabantay over 1,400 metres.
The Dubai World Cup runner-up worked in the presence of Alan Sherman, the assistant trainer and son to Art, who had not seen his stable flag-bearer since he was denied by Prince Bishop in the World Cup in March.
California Chrome has been stabled with Rae Guest in Newmarket, and will have a final breeze at the headquarters of British racing next week ahead of his June 17 assignment.
“He is a little bit leaner than he was,” Sherman said. “That Dubai race took a lot out of him. When he arrived here for two weeks all he really did was sleep. Rae has done a great job getting that weight back on. He is not yet back to where he was, but he looks good.”
As California Chrome has raced around left-handed tracks his whole life, the right-handed nature of Ascot was entirely new to him. There are no right-handed gallops in Newmarket, either and Dettori said the work could have gone more smoothly around the turn in to the straight.
“The whole idea was to get him to follow speed around the turn to make sure he gets the right lead,” the Italian rider said. “He was a bit surprised going into the turn, he didn’t know what was going on but then he got into his right lead, he learnt very quickly and in the straight I asked him to quicken to make sure he understood he was going to carry on.”
Dettori is pencilled in to ride Western Hymn in the race for John Gosden, and, with the possibility that regular rider Victor Espinoza may not make the trip across the Atlantic, for the next few days at least the meeting’s most high-profile international horse does not yet have a partner.
The decision to run California Chrome in England was taken during World Cup week, and was contingent on America’s Horse of the Year putting in a good performance at Meydan. Following the world’s richest race, trainer Art Sherman made public his feelings at not wanting his pride and joy to travel to Europe to race.
It was a sentiment shared by his son in the shadow of the grandstand where California Chrome will become the second Kentucky Derby winner to run in two years after Animal Kingdom’s failed bid in 2013.
“Obviously we would rather he was at home rather than running there,” Sherman added. “It is not our decision, it is up to the owners. We are going to do what is best for the horse. Perry [Martin] owns 70 per cent of the horse so he calls the shots.”
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