California Chrome arrives for Arlington Million with tall task ahead

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

July 8th, 2015

Reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome arrived back in America Tuesday afternoon after several months overseas. After shipping to Dubai in March for the World Cup (UAE-G1) at Meydan, in which he finished second, the colt spent time in England preparing for the Prince of Wales's S. (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot. He was unfortunately scratched hours before that June 18 contest after developing a bruised foot.

Rather than return to more familiar surroundings in trainer Art Sherman's barn in California, California Chrome will stick to his owners' game plan and spend the next five weeks or so at Arlington, outside Chicago, where he'll prepare for that track's signature event, the $1 million Arlington Million (G1) on August 15.

If the conventional wisdom was correct that the Prince of Wales's would have been a major ask for California Chrome, who had beaten a modest field in his only other turf appearance and had a very stiff 1 1/4 miles ahead of him at Ascot, then his pursuit of the Arlington Million in the present circumstances figures to be no less challenging.

Yes, he is on his home soil and will be running over a flat 1 1/4 miles. However, unless he manages to squeeze in a late prep (which is doubtful), when post time rolls around he will have not run in 4 1/2 months. It is not the most ideal preparation for what is generally the most contentious grass of the year in this country outside the Breeders' Cup.

There have certainly been some momentous training feats in significant races during my time as a racing fan. The ones that immediately come to mind are from youth (isn't that usually the case?): Ross Fenstermaker getting Precisionist to win the 1985 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Aqueduct off a 4 1/2-month layoff, and Charlie Whittingham delivering Greinton to the winner's circle after the 1986 Santa Anita H. (G1) off four months' rest.

Precisionist and Greinton at least had the advantage of having been proficient at those conditions. California Chrome, his Hollywood Derby (G1) victory notwithstanding, will be facing many of the division's best while entering at a disadvantage as far as turf experience and fitness. Let's also not forget the likely presence of some serious foreign raiders, and Million history shows they don't have to be top-notch overseas to make our contingent look like ostriches frantically searching for the nearest hole in the ground.

With the obligatory defections and inconsistency emanating from the older male division on dirt, many have lamented California Chrome's absence from the domestic scene these past few months. He may or may not have helped fill that vacuum, but what is apparent is that we'll all have to wait a little longer to find out if he can.

(Photo: Four Footed Fotos)