One week ahead of his career finale in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), California Chrome ripped through his last-ever workout Saturday morning at Gulfstream Park.
The 2014 Horse of the Year, who is widely expected to take that ultimate honor again at the Eclipse Awards gala Saturday night, clicked off fractions of :23.66 and :35.12 en route to finishing five furlongs in :58.80. That was the second-fastest work at the distance, with three-year-old Three Rules earning the bullet in :58.72. Doing it all on his own volition, with exercise rider Dihigi Gladney just aboard for the steering job, California Chrome went on to gallop out six furlongs in 1:12.41.
“I’m feeling great,” trainer Art Sherman said. “I said if he went in a minute, I would be happy, and galloped out in 1:13. 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. We hardly ever press him to do anything. He was under hand, and I’m very satisfied with the work.”
Sherman also commented on California Chrome’s massive fan base, who’ve cheered him on since his spectacular spring of 2014, highlighted by victories in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1).
“He has such a following,” his trainer smiled. “I have 20 women coming out from Orange County (to see 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. 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.”
Partly because of that popularity, “Chrome” is likely to be favored in next Saturday’s Pegasus over Arrogate, who caught him late in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
“I’ve been wanting a rematch for a long time now,” Sherman added of getting another crack at the younger Arrogate.
Aside from gaining revenge on Arrogate, California Chrome has another major goal in the Pegasus. With the $7 million winner’s share, his bankroll would swell to $21.5 million. Already North America’s all-time leading earner, Chrome would thereby surpass Japan’s Gentildonna as the richest Throughbred in history.
Racing fans will be sad to see California Chrome leave the scene at the peak of his powers. The day after the Pegasus, the six-year-old will ship to Taylor Made Farm near Nicholasville, Kentucky, to begin his new career at stud.
Yet the Chrome stakeholders had seriously discussed the idea of keeping him in training to point for a repeat in the March 25 Dubai World Cup (G1), Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Farm revealed.
“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,” Taylor told Gulfstream publicity.
“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’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 (in 2017), he could make $15 million. He made $8 million (last year).
“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.”
But stud duty calls, especially with the high demand for his services.
“We’ve got great mares to him,” Taylor said. “We have 120 booked to him, and turned down over a 100.
“We’ll get him there on the 29th (of January). 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.”