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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – In what was the final breeze of his storied career on the racetrack, California Chrome worked Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park in preparation for his swan song, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 28.
California Chrome, with regular exercise rider Dihigi Gladney in the saddle, stepped onto the track at precisely 7:32, on a balmy morning in South Florida. After being backed-up the wrong way for a quarter-mile, Gladney turned the 6-year-old around and began to gallop past the clubhouse, where fans and horsemen looked on in eager anticipation of the final breeze from North America’s richest racehorse.
As is California Chrome’s custom, he worked faster than what it appeared. A nearly motionless Gladney guided him through the five-furlong move, which was timed in 58.81, following fractions of 23.66 and 35.12. The 6-year-old galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.41.
On hand for the work was Art Sherman, California Chrome’s 79-year-old trainer, who arrived in Florida late Thursday evening from California.
“I’m feeling great, I said if he went in a 1:00, I would be happy, and galloped out in 1:13,” Sherman said to the media outside Barn 2 following the work. “He went in 58 4/5 and galloped out in 1:12 1/5. He’s ready. That was an awesome work. I thought it was sensational.
“He’s cruise control; that’s what I like,” he added. “We hardly ever press him to do anything. He was under hand, and I’m very satisfied with the work.”
The Pegasus, the world’s richest race, will afford California Chrome the opportunity to have a rematch with Arrogate, who beat him by a half-length in their only meeting, the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita.
“I’ve been wanting a rematch for a long time now,” Sherman now.
Sherman, who will attend tonight’s Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park where California Chrome is a finalist for Horse of the Year, along with Arrogate, and Older Male, said he hadn’t fully processed the emotions of the moment — that he had just watched California Chrome work for the final time. The horse will leave after the Pegasus for Kentucky to commence stud duties at Taylor Made Farm.
Sherman, a former jockey, rode at Gulfstream Park, and saddled one runner here as a trainer in 2004. He was surrounded by a lot of well-wishers as he stood in the grandstand to watch Saturday’s work.
“A lot of memories,” he said. “I rode here when I was a kid. “Of course, it was a lot different. Now I look back and I say ‘Wow, here we are.’ It’s been a great journey. It’s been fun, a lot of fun. I met a lot of nice people throughout the game and I’m enjoying myself.”
One of the perks of training California Chrome for Sherman is seeing the amount of joy the horse has given to his large and loyal fan base, especially those who flock to his home base at Los Alamitos to catch a glimpse of the superstar.
“He has such a following,” Sherman said with a big grin. “I have 20 women coming out from Orange County [for the Pegasus]. They are all ‘Chromies,’ I call them. They have never missed a workout and I work him like at 5:45 in the morning.
“It’s probably been the biggest fan base I have ever seen,” he continued. “I saw a lot of good horses, with this one and that, John Henry and Cigar, but I have never seen so many people love this horse like they do. He’s the people’s horse, I always thought.”
Frank Taylor, the vice-president of boarding operations at Taylor Made Farm, California Chrome’s new home as of Jan. 29, was on hand Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park for the horse’s final career breeze, and his last before the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 28.
As California Chrome was being bathed by his groom Raul Rodriguez and held on the shank by exercise rider Dihigi Gladney, Taylor walked over and fed the 6-year-old some treats and then stood back and gazed appreciatively at the chestnut.
Taylor and his brothers, Ben, Duncan and Mark operate the 1,000-acre Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, Ky. In July of 2015, Taylor Made bought a 30 percent interest in California Chrome for the remainder of his racing career as well as the rights to stand him at their farm upon his retirement. The Taylor family bought out the ownership interest held by Steve and Carolyn Coburn, who co-bred and initially raced the horse with Perry and Denise Martin.
Frank Taylor said discussions recently took place about not retiring California Chrome after the Pegasus, and instead pointing him to the Dubai World Cup, a race he won in 2016 after finishing second in it the year prior. The Dubai World Cup will be run at Meydan Racecourse March 25.
“I thought maybe two or three weeks ago there was a chance, but we polled everybody and there were a few people who didn’t want to run,” Frank Taylor said. “We’re in the position where we have all these mares booked to him and we bought a lot mares to breed to him; it was kind of hard to turn back. I was really campaigning to do that.
“The reason I want to run him is because he is sound or better today than when we started in January,” he added. “He’s just getting better and better. With the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup there is so much money. If he were to [win] and do good [this year], he could make $15 million. He made $8 million [in 2016]. He’s just getting bigger and stronger. He’s just amazing. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a machine in a horse.”
California Chrome, a son of Lucky Pulpit, will stand his first season for a fee of $40,000. Not surprisingly, interest from mare owners to breed to North America’s richest racehorse has been strong.
The day after the Pegasus, California Chrome will leave Florida and head to Kentucky. Almost immediately he will begin preparing for his second career, which will begin in mid-February, the traditional opening of the breeding season in North America.
“We’ve got great mares to him. We have 120 booked to him, and turned down over a 100,” Taylor said. “We’ll get him there on the 29th. We’ll probably give him a day or two break. Then we have some test mares we will start breeding to probably on either the 31st or on the 1st. That gives us a couple of weeks [to be] ready to roll. I don’t think he will be hard to train. I think he’s ready.”
Source: Gulfstream Park
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