Dubai World Cup preview
By Jerry Bossert @JerryBossert
Last year, California Chrome took trainer Art Sherman on an incredible journey, traveling across the country, winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, before ending with a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
Now, the 77-year-old trainer has his bags packed again as California Chrome has taking him halfway around the world to Dubai, where he’ll compete in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race on March 28.
California Chrome drew the outside post in the field of nine and was made the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the mile-and-a-quarter race.
“I call him the California rock star,” Sherman said. “He’s got such a following all over the world. I thought nobody would know in Dubai but from the moment I stepped off the plane, people said ‘there’s California Chrome’s trainer’.”
California Chrome will try to become the third Kentucky Derby winner to win the Dubai World Cup in the race’s 20-year history, joining Silver Charm in 1998 and Animal Kingdom in 2013.
“He’s kind of push button,” Sherman said of the 4-year-old California-bred colt. “He’s not a one-dimensional horse and that’s important. Just keep him in the clear and have a place to go. That’s all I ask.”
California Chrome will once again be ridden by jockey Victory Espinoza, who rode the colt to victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness last year.
“By a $2,500 stud out of a maiden $8,000 claiming mare, to come by and win all these races, it gives an incentive to the little guy,” Sherman said. “This is a game where you can buy your way into a lot of things, but we are proof that a dream can happen. You don’t have to be a millionaire or a billionaire to win these kinds of races. In the end, I’d like to leave some sort of legacy with him that says ‘wow, I remember California Chrome, he was a great horse and we had a lot of fun watching him run.”
African Story, who won the World Cup last year, will try to become the first repeat winner of the race and will break from post three looking to give trainer Saeed bin Suroor his seventh win in the World Cup.
Trainer Bill Mott, who saddled Cigar to victory in the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996, is back to try and win his second with Lea, winner of the 2014 Donn Handicap.
“It is great to be back with a serious contender,” Mott said. “We are drawn in the middle (post five) which is perfect.”
My selections: Lea, California Chrome and African Story.
Back in the United States, two important prep races will be held for the Kentucky Derby – the $1 million Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park and the $750,000 Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds.
In the Florida Derby, Upstart will try to get back into the winner’s circle after being disqualified from last month’s Fountain of Youth Stakes and placed second.
My selections: Upstart, Materiality and Itsaknockout.
International Star will be the one to beat in the Louisiana Derby seeking his third straight stakes score and is a perfect 2-for-2 over the Fair Grounds surface.
My selections: International Star, Stanford and Mr. Z.