California Chrome Shines in Dubai

Chrome posts perfect World Cup prep

Safety Check wins the 2016 Zabeel Mile in a photo (photo: Andrew Watkins)

Safety Check wins second Zabeel Mile in a nailbiter (photo: Andrew Watkins)

Godolphin’s Safety Check survived a photo finish to become the first horse to win the Group 2 Zabeel Mile twice at Meydan Racecourse on Thursday, while US star, California Chrome cruised to facile victory in his Dubai World Cup prep.

The eighth meeting of the 2016 Dubai World Cup Carnival, sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group, proved a cracker. Dubai World Cup clues were much in evidence with Godolphin’s US raider, Marking throwing down the Dubai Golden Shaheen gauntlet with an impressive performance in his 1200m dirt prep while Doug Watson’s One Man band claimed a fourth victory of the season and looks set for a spot in the Godolphin Mile.

The Charlie Appleby-trained Safety Check made Dubai World Cup Carnival history in the featured Group 2 Zabeel Mile under William Buick, winning out in a photo finish over the Ali Rashid Al Raihe-trained Ghaamer. Settled in midfield by Buick, Safety Check always looked to be travelling well and was asked to close early in the straight. With 300m to run, Zahee went to the front, passing long-time leader Ghaamer with Safety Check and Harry’s Son, runner-up in the Al Fahidi Fort, the only pair emerging from the pack. Ultra game, Ghaamer thrust his head back in front 50m from home, only to be headed right on the line by Safety Check.

“He just goes so well here and loves to please so always tries hard,” said Appleby. “The 1600m is as far as he wants to go but this lovely flat, turning track and fast ground are what he wants. Dirt and the Godolphin Mile were considered, but he deserves a crack at Group 1 company so will go for the Hong Kong Mile next.”

Buick claimed a winning treble on the night, also steering the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Marking to his victory and was aboard Dubai debutant, Baccarat, who gave Appleby a double, in the closing Al Naboodah Civil Division Trophy.

California Chrome

California Chrome wins Transgulf Electromechanical Trophy (photo: Andrew Watkins)

California Chrome wins Transgulf Electromechanical Trophy (photo: Andrew Watkins)

But all eyes were on the Art Sherman-trained California Chrome in the $150,000 Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy. Giving weight to all his rivals, the USA’s 2014 Horse of the Year and Champion 3yo Male recorded a text-book prep effort under Victor Espinoza.

While the finish certainly was easy, Espinoza had to change plans early.  After breaking well, California Chrome was backed off the early pace to race in third, behind front runner Success Story and Hunting Ground. Despite conceding weight to all his rivals and racing three wide through the back stretch, California Chrome always appeared to be travelling comfortably. As the field turned for home, California Chrome made his move, drawing level with his rivals. With Success Story and Hunting Ground coming under strong rides from Tadhg O’Shea and Mickael Bazalona, Espinoza eased California Chrome into the lead. Storm Belt and Sam Hitchcott mounted a late challenge, but Chrome drew away from the field to win by a comfortable 2 lengths.

After a successful return to the track in the 9 January Gr2 San Pasqual at Santa Anita, California Chrome arrived in Meydan on 22 January and appears to have settled in well.

Explaining that they’d opted for the 2000m handicap on Thursday’s card rather than the 5 March 2016 Super Saturday programme in order to give themselves an extra week before the World Cup meeting, Art Sherman commented, “That was great; it was his second run after a long break so he will improve from it. We decided the best way to win a Dubai World Cup was to come early and have a prep at Meydan and this race was ideal as we now have four weeks before the big one.”

California Chrome completed the race in 2:04.24 on a fast track and jockey Victor Espinoza confirmed that the win was as easy as it looked. ““I feel like it was a good race. I think that it was not really hard, but it was still a good solid race for the next one. That was the perfect prep for the Dubai World Cup. He has again showed the track and surface suit him. Hopefully he will be hard to beat in the big race.”

Now campaigned by “California Chrome Inc.”, which includes Perry and Denise Martin, Taylor Made, and several prominent breeders, California Chrome is being pointed to the Dubai World Cup on 26 March, where the dual classic winner finished second last year.


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