DUBAI (AP) — It’s on to the world’s richest race for California Chrome.
The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner appears to be back in top form with an easy two-length victory in a $150,000 race in Dubai on Thursday, a second straight win for the popular horse on the comeback trail.
“It was easy,” winning jockey Victor Espinoza said after the race of about 1 1/4 miles at Meydan Racecourse. “It’s a short period of time from now until the next race. I didn’t want to empty the tank today.”
And that next race would be the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 26.
“We were very satisfied,” winning trainer Art Sherman said. “Now I feel good about the $10 million race coming up.”
Now 5 years old, California Chrome has won two in a row following a close-call, second-place finish in the 2015 World Cup. After that race, Chrome was sent to train in England and then back to the U.S. However, it was revealed he had a bruised bone in a leg and did not race for about 10 months before returning and winning the San Pasqual at Santa Anita on Jan. 9.
California Chrome sparkled in Dubai. He raced third early in the eight-horse field, behind Success Story and Hunting Ground.
Around the far turn, Chrome kicked into gear, took the lead on the outside and cruised to the finish ahead of runner-up Storm Belt.
Success Story was third, followed by Hunting Ground, Pit Stop, Good Contact, Plantagenet and El Trien.
“He came out of the gate like a rocket,” Espinoza said. “He went nice and comfortable today. I felt like I got a good position in the first turn, and from there on he was pretty much all by himself.”
In 2014, Chrome became racing’s darling. He had a popular journeyman trainer in Sherman and an outspoken owner in Steve Coburn. His legion of fans called themselves “Chromies.” Chrome did not disappoint, either, winning the Derby and the Preakness with Espinoza aboard.
The colt’s bid for a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes came up short, when he finished in a dead heat for fourth. Turned out Chrome had been stepped on by another horse at the start and suffered a cut right front ankle. Coburn fumed on national TV, accusing the competition of ganging up on his horse.
In July 2015, Taylor Made Farm purchased a 30 percent interest in California Chrome, buying out Coburn. The ownership group is called California Chrome Inc. and includes Perry Martin — the soft-spoken owner who teamed with Coburn — and several prominent breeders.
With Thursday’s win Chrome improved his record to 12 victories in 21 career starts.