California Chrome will return to action in 2016

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July 19th, 2015

Trainer Art Sherman has made the announcement that racing fans have wanted to hear: Horse of the Year California Chrome, currently sidelined by cannon bone bruising, will be back in action in 2016.

The news came on the Roger Stein radio show Sunday, and the relevant quotes were kindly posted on the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association website.

"He's going to run next year as a 5-year-old and I'll train him and he's coming back to California," Sherman said. "I feel kind of at ease right now and really good about it. I think it's all for the best, back with people that have horses and been in the game a long time."

Sherman was referring to the Taylor family's Taylor Made -- the Nicholasville, Kentucky, establishment that purchased the minority interest in "Chrome" formerly held by Steve Coburn. The comment was also an oblique reference to the disagreements Sherman has had with majority owner Perry Martin, epitomized by the fruitless trip to Royal Ascot for the Prince of Wales's (G1), which he ended up missing with a foot bruise. Chrome was rerouted to Chicago for a tilt at the August 15 Arlington Million (G1) when the cannon bone issue surfaced last weekend, prompting thoughts that he might be retired to stud.

The 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) hero is recuperating at Taylor Made, his future home as a stallion. Although Chrome's status for 2016 was not officially revealed until Sunday, a Taylor Made release on Friday offered a very encouraging prognosis from Dr. Larry Bramlage.

"California Chrome's X-rays showed all of his joints to be remarkably clean," the respected Rood & Riddle practitioner commented. "He has the early signs of bruising to the bottom of the cannon bones. Horses training at high levels for long periods of time, like California Chrome has, gradually get behind in the bone's response to the stress because we train them and then ask them to stand in the stall for most of the day.

"Horses evolved as grazing animals and that is how their bone's blood supply works best. So the treatment is to get them back to their natural state, let them be a horse in the paddock until the bone returns to normal.

"The return rate for horses with this problem is very high. When we researched prognosis for distal cannon bone bruising, we found that recovery rate was 95 percent after giving time in the paddock to heal."

That could have been taken as a signal that Chrome would be back.

"I'm so happy it turned out this way, give the horse a break, he's going to be a really nice 5-year-old," Sherman said on the Roger Stein show. "Things happen for the best, for a reason. Maybe the injury was a blessing in disguise right now, finally give the horse a chance for a little R and R, let him be a horse.

"All the vets I talk to say he'll be 100 percent sound in 85 days. I think he's going to come back a tiger. I'm looking forward to 2016 being a big year for him."

While that's a cause for celebration in and of itself -- especially with Triple Crown star American Pharoah expected to be retired at the end of this season -- I for one was especially interested in seeing more from Chrome. As impressive as he was in the first half of 2014, when winning two-thirds of the Triple Crown, I thought that his success was at least partly attributable to the fact that a few key rivals were out of commission. That notion took further hold during his losses in the second half, although he did rebound in the Hollywood Derby (G1) in his turf debut.

Both of Chrome's appearances in 2015 resulted in fine runner-up efforts. The flashy chestnut was best of the rest in his reappearance behind champion Shared Belief in the February 7 San Antonio Invitational (G2), a performance that looked even better after Shared Belief annihilated them in the Santa Anita H. (G1). Chrome went on to finish another gallant second in the Dubai World Cup (G1).

I really hoped that Chrome would have returned for a U.S. campaign rather than tilting at windmills at Royal Ascot. Back on home soil, we could get a further gauge of how he stacked up in the older male division (as explained here). That wish was put on hold, but will now be granted. Since Sherman indicated that his point of contact now is Duncan Taylor of Taylor Made, there's an assurance of more logical management.

Photo of California Chrome from his sojourn at Arlington courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.