Lessons learned: California Chrome team better preparing for Dubai World Cup this time

'With experience comes enlightenment' writes Geoffrey Riddle, as the team around California Chrome believe the horse is being positioned for a better chance this year at the Dubai World Cup.
California Chrome shown with trainer Art Sherman at Churchill Downs in Kentucky in May 2014. Garry Jones / AP
California Chrome shown with trainer Art Sherman at Churchill Downs in Kentucky in May 2014. Garry Jones / AP

With experience comes enlightenment.

California Chrome embarks on his quest to land the Dubai World Cup on Thursday night when the five-year-old chestnut breaks from the inside gate under Victor Espinoza in the Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy, the sixth event on the seven-race card.

Outside him in the $150,000 (Dh550,900) contest over 2,000 metres will be seven runners that are likely to set the race up for him, with perhaps only Godolphin’s Good Contact his only serious rival.

Connections are bullish going into the race, and that is because their new, more organised way of doing things appears to be bearing fruit.

Gone is the scattergun, and some might say scatter-brained, campaign ideas of last season.

They have been replaced by a far more considered method that focuses in their cross-hairs just the world’s only $10 million race and the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November.

Nothing else really matters.

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Tonight’s handicap assignment has been chosen by trainer Art Sherman and majority owner Perry Martin because it is an easier task than running against Keen Ice and Frosted on Super Saturday next week.

It also affords California Chrome extra time to recover from his exertions.

Art Sherman told The National this week that he expects a “champion run” from California Chrome, and fellow American trainer Steve Asmussen can understand why.

The South Dakotan was the last American to use a handicap to prepare a Dubai World Cup runner when at Nad Al Sheba in 2008 he tacked up Curlin, the reigning US Horse Of The Year at the time, to run in the Jaguar Trophy Handicap.

Curlin was the best horse from America to travel to Dubai since Cigar won the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996.

The 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner gave 7 kilograms and a beating to Godolphin’s Familiar Territory.

He went on to win the World Cup by nearly eight lengths.

Curlin was rated 129 in comparison to the 121 of California Chrome, who has to give six of his rivals 7kgs and more worryingly Godolphin’s improving Good Contact 9.5kgs.

Curlin had not run since his Classic win, whereas California Chrome warmed up for his Dubai trip with a comfortable victory at the San Pasqual Stakes 46 days ago.

“My level of confidence could not have been higher,” Asmussen said from his US base.

“We felt very prepared. Before we left America we talked about how much weight he would have to carry and made sure we trained him with extra weight in preparation.”

The California Chrome team have yet to drill down to such granular detail, but the way they have readied their stable star this time around is in marked contrast to last year’s campaign that lurched from one disaster to the next.

Following the Dubai World Cup run behind Prince Bishop, California Chrome missed an intended Royal Ascot prep run in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes in May.

He then missed the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes because of a foot bruise. He was later scratched from the Arlington Million due to a bruised cannon bone.

It is the convalescence on the stud farms at new part-owners Taylor Made that has resulted in California Chrome looking in the best form since he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2014.

According to Sherman, he is stronger than ever, too.

One of the main reasons why Asmussen shipped Curlin to Dubai was that he felt the earlier he came the more petrol there would be left in the tank when they returned to America.

“Some of our team had reservations about going to Dubai because the thinking was at the time that once a horse went to Dubai they were never the same again,” he said.

“We felt we needed to acclimatise him in Dubai, and on his return, so we had more horse when we got back.

“Some people say that wasn’t the case after Curlin won the World Cup, but he only got beaten on turf in the Man O’War Stakes and in the Classic on the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita.

“Running him on that was like telling Michaelangelo what paints to use.”

This week the Dubai Racing Club announced that Janet Jackson will play on March 26 following the running of the 21st Dubai World Cup.

On her new album Unbreakable is a track called “Lessons Learned”. It could be a particularly appropriate song for her to play were California Chrome to prevail Thursday and again in four weeks.


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Published: February 24, 2016 04:00 AM


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