California Chrome becomes a legend in Dubai World Cup

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March 26th, 2016

California Chrome just ensured his place in the Hall of Fame with an epic victory in Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1). Shrugging off a wide trip, and almost shrugging off his slipping saddle, the 2014 Horse of the Year smashed the track record -- and surpassed Hall of Famer Curlin as North America’s all-time leading earner.

By going one better than his runner-up effort a year ago, California Chrome joined another Hall of Famer, Silver Charm, and Animal Kingdom as Kentucky Derby (G1) winners who went on to World Cup glory.

California Chrome was confidently handled by regular rider Victor Espinoza, who kept him within striking distance, in his wide-traveling comfort zone, before stamping his class down the stretch. The Art Sherman trainee drew off by 3 3/4 lengths and smoked about 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.83. That obliterated the previous mark of 2:03.09 established by Special Fighter in the March 5 Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1).

Mubtaahij got up for second, while Hoppertunity took third despite a wide trip. Special Fighter was fourth, followed by Frosted and Mshawish. Keen Ice fared worst of the Americans in eighth.

With the $6 million winner’s check, “Chrome” has now bankrolled $12,532,650. And with more lucrative targets down the road, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and possibly Frank Stronach’s proposed $12 million contest at Gulfstream Park next January, he stands to rake in a lot more. Co-owner/breeder Perry Martin hopes that Chrome will take over the mantle of the world’s all-time moneyspinner.

Sherman has said all along that Chrome was five lengths better than last year, and he proved it, remaining perfect from three starts this campaign. The popular Cal-bred, who will enter stud at Taylor Made in 2017, will now get a vacation at the Nicholasville, Kentucky, farm.


A course record also fell in the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (G1), where the Roger Varian-trained Postponed rebuffed Japan’s Duramente. Under regular pilot Andrea Atzeni, the son of Dubawi clocked about 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.97, bettering Gentildonna’s 2:27.25 from this race in 2014.

Duramente, who dislodged a shoe in the post parade and ran with only three feet shod, briefly loomed behind Postponed in the stretch but finished two lengths adrift. Compatriot Last Impact rallied for third, and early leader Highland Reel tired to fourth in his reappearance.

Postponed became the first horse to graduate from the local prep, the Dubai City of Gold (G2), to Sheema success. Previously trained by Luca Cumani, he scored his signature win in last summer’s King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) and next landed the Prix Foy (G2). The Sheema extended his winning skein to four.


Although Duramente couldn’t get the job done, the horse he’s beaten in their last three meetings, Real Steel, paid him a compliment with a career-high in the $6 million Dubai Turf (G1). All-world ace rider Ryan Moore helped mitigate the damage from an unfavorable post 14, Real Steel seized command in the stretch, and held the late charge of Euro Charline. His final time of 1:47.13 for about nine furlongs was the course’s second fastest, deferring only to Just a Way’s sublime 1:45.52 recorded in the 2014 edition.

Favored Tryster was up against it trying to rally from last, and acquitted himself respectably by grabbing third. Ertijaal (Aus) was fourth, and Flamboyant did Southern California proud in a close fifth.

Real Steel was winning his first Group 1, but he’s come close at home in Japan. Second to Duramente in last spring’s Japanese 2000 Guineas (G1) and just missing in the Japanese St Leger (G1), he was most recently third to Duramente in the Nakayama Kinen (G2).


The $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) turned out to be a thriller, with locally based Muarrab ultimately outdueling a game X Y Jet. One of two Super Saturday winners to double up on World Cup night (along with Postponed), Muarrab was exiting a track record-setting romp in the Mahab al Shimaal (G3). The Musabah al Muhairi veteran was a couple of ticks off that Saturday when covering about six furlongs in 1:10.59.

Another local, Morawij, excelled himself to finish a further 3 3/4 lengths back in third. The 10-year-old Reynaldothewizard rallied for fourth. Confrontation was a non-threatening sixth. Unfortunately, Kifaah went wrong and unseated jockey Dane O'Neill, who was off his subsequent mount. Awaiting word on both horse and rider at this point.


Australia’s beloved Buffering showed his customary tenacity to come out on top in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1), subduing Peniaphobia and parrying the thrust of Ertijaal (Ire). By zipping about five grassy furlongs in :56.34 (not far off Amber Sky’s course record of :56.21 posted in the 2014 Al Quoz), Buffering notched an amazing seventh career Group 1 victory. He’s also pushed his earnings past the A$7 million mark.

Peniaphobia, last year’s runner-up, finished a close third. Godolphin’s Jungle Cat came home fourth, while America’s Lady Shipman was seventh.

Buffering’s trainer, Robert Heathcote, indicated that Hong Kong and Royal Ascot are on the agenda for the pride of Queensland.


Japan’s Lani booked his place in the Kentucky Derby (G1) by scooping 100 points as the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) winner. After stumbling at the start, nearly touching his nose to the ground, and lagging in last early, the Kentucky-bred son of Tapit advanced on the far outside down the backstretch. Lani worked his way into contention turning for home, and responding to Yutaka Take, wore down fellow Japanese shipper Yu Change in a final time of 1:58.41 for about 1 3/16 miles.

Previously unbeaten filly Polar River was squeezed out of room when trying to challenge between horses in upper stretch. She altered course around Lani, and stuck on determinedly, but could get no closer than three-quarters of a length. Polar River’s 40 points for the runner-up spot will be applied to her Kentucky Oaks (G1) account, should connections have a change of heart and take up her engagement at Churchill Downs.

Early leader Vale Dori retreated to fourth. Frank Conversation, the only US Triple Crown nominee besides Lani, trailed home last. I guess you can say his dirt experiment is over.


Favored Vazirabad likewise recovered from an awkward start, in his case rearing up when the gate opened, in the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (G2). Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre and masterfully guided by Christophe Soumillon, the Aga Khan homebred bided his time near the back before mastering Big Orange late. Vazirabad, who took 3:19.56 to negotiate two metric miles on turf, has now won six straight.

Big Orange was positively heroic to come up a neck short after chasing Certerach’s demanding pace. The top two were 4 3/4 lengths clear of Haafaguinea, who ran his heart out to deny Suegioo third in his first attempt at this marathon trip. The Emirates Racing Authority tweeted that Haafaguinea pulled up lame in his right foreleg, but the Godolphin recap had no word on it. Certerach faded to 10th.

Vazirabad swept last fall’s Prix de Lutece (G3), Prix Chaudenay (G2), and Prix Royal-Oak (G1), the latter over his elders. De Royer-Dupre mentioned that the 4-year-old Manduro gelding is eligible to cut back to about 1 1/2 miles, naming the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (G1) as a possible objective.


Although UAE champion trainer Doug Watson was out of luck with Polar River, he did enhance his resume with a first career win on World Cup night in the Godolphin Mile (G2). Even better, Watson had the trifecta, with One Man Band wiring stablemates Faulkner and Cool Cowboy.

One Man Band, the runner-up in the Firebreak (G3) at this track and trip earlier in the Carnival, was recording his first stakes win. But the son of Pivotal loves it at Meydan, as his track records prove. He actually lowered his own mark for the metric mile when speeding in 1:35.21 on Saturday.

Marking, who was rerouted to this race owing to his inexperience and gate problems, disappointed in fourth. Jockey James Doyle told Racing UK’s Rishi Pershad that Marking has a lot of ability, but is a “monkey.” Sloane Avenue, last year’s tough-beat second, never factored in fifth, and jockey Frankie Dettori reported that his back may have been thrown out of alignment.


See also this post with the most noteworthy quotes

California Chrome photo courtesy Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood.