The Dubai World Cup meeting celebrates its historic 25th anniversary on March 27, with six Group 1 races and three Group 2s, including one of the world’s premier races, the $12 million Dubai World Cup, sponsored by Emirates Airline.
Over the next week, we will pay tribute to each of the previous Dubai World Cup winners. Today, we rewind to 2016 when California Chrome won the Dubai World Cup under Victor Espinoza for trainer, Art Sherman.
California Chrome and his connections had a score to settle in 2016. A year earlier he had arrived in Dubai in a flurry of publicity, carrying a weight of expectation after being crowned the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner.
Despite his humble breeding he had defeated some of the most blue-blooded Thoroughbreds ever to enter a starting gate in the USA. He prepped for the 2015 Dubai World Cup in the Grade 2 San Antonio Invitational, finishing second and went straight to the Dubai World Cup. Yet that race – at the time the richest on the planet with a US$10m prize purse – eluded him. He was pipped to the post by the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Prince Bishop under William Buick.
Yet trainer Art Sherman and his assistant, son, Alan Sherman remained undaunted, gave their hugely popular stable star a break and brought him back into training for a second crack at the Dubai World Cup in 2016.
On the big day jockey, Victor Espinoza, California Chrome’s long-term partner, sent his mount to the head of affairs from his draw, second widest in gate 11. He was content to sit wide, just off the pace as Frankie Dettori, a veteran of three Dubai World Cup victories, dictated affairs aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained Mshawish.
Once they rounded the home turn, Espinoza asked California Chrome for an effort. Only too happy to oblige the chestnut pulled away from the pack in a matter of strides, leaving the field stretched out behind him, with the UAE Derby winner, Mubtaahij running into second and the Bob Baffert-trained Hoppertunity a fast-finishing third.
After the race it transpired that Espinoza had ridden his finish with a saddle that had slipped backwards under his horse’s belly. “Turning for home, I couldn’t wait any longer and I had to go because I felt like the saddle was slipping,” he said. “I was just trying to keep my balance and not move my body. I wasn’t that concerned about it (the slipped saddle), I just kept looking forward and thinking: ‘Where’s the wire?’.
“There’s alchemy in Dubai – Chrome turns to gold,” said race commentator, Terry Spargo as the yet-to-be anointed 2016 Horse of the Year crossed the line.
Dubai Racing Club Press Release
Photo: California Chrome, (Dubai Racing Club)