California Chrome: latest victory was hard-fought
PICTURE: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club/Benoit Photos
SO MUCH for the sport of kings. California Chrome was bred on a shoestring budget by a group of amateurs and after Saturday’s win in the San Diego Handicap he’s in line to be crowned world champion.
Rich folk and royals invest millions, sometimes billions, in pursuit of owning the best racehorse on the planet, but the Dumb Ass Partners simply sent their bargain-basement mare to a cheapo sire and hey presto. $10k. Job done.
The chestnut five-year-old won the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup, back in March, which might have been a fitting climax to his rags-to-riches story – but he wasn’t finished there.
On the weekend he improved again to beat the monstrous Grade 1 winner Dortmund (125) by a cosy half-length. That win earned him an RPR of 131, the joint highest in the world this year.
Unlike A Shin Hikari, with whom he shares the lead in the global standings, the 131 figure is not out of keeping with his profile. In fact he could have run to a similar mark in Dubai on his previous start.
He posted an RPR of 127 in the Dubai World Cup, having raced four wide throughout and covered far more ground than his rivals.
You don’t get many horses who earn ratings over 130, but he could have done it twice already and, judging by the manner of Saturday’s success, if any horse is going to better 131 this year it could well be him.
A rematch with Dortmund is on the cards in the Pacific Classic back at Del Mar next month, when they will run off level weights – effectively a 5lb swing in favour of California Chrome, who carried top weight on the weekend.
Leading mare Beholder is also set to run in the Pacific Classic, which could end up being a preview for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. That said a comfortable success for California Chrome at Del Mar could send Dortmund back to a mile and Beholder back against her own sex at the Breeders’ Cup.
As stories go they don’t come any more unlikely than California Chrome’s.
He’s right up there with the Welsh National winner raised on an allotment (Dream Alliance) and the Taxi-driver trained £500 Royal Ascot winner (Takeover Target).
The lack of expertise and capital that went into breeding the Californian chestnut stands in alarming contrast to the mammoth investments of the professional outfits he now regularly humiliates.
He won the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes at three and was only beaten two lengths in the Belmont Stakes. He won Grade 1s on turf and dirt and was American Horse of the Year in 2014.
On that year alone he deserves to have a film made of his life, but this year he became the richest racehorse in American history and could now hit the pinnacle of the sport by becoming world champion.
Hope for the little guy
But even that may not be the end of the story, as next spring the inaugural running of the $12 million Pegasus World Cup takes place at Gulfstream Park – and California Chrome has a spot in the line-up.
Should he win that colossal prize he would become the richest racehorse in the history by a clear margin, surpassing all the big-money Japanese stars who currently dominate the list.
Considering the trajectory of his career to date you would not put it past him winning the Pegasus.
If he did the Dumb Ass Partners (named because of a comment made in response to their purchase of California Chrome’s dam) would have achieved the impossible.
The cheap-as-chips chestnut would be immortalised in racing history; offering a blazing ray of hope for the little guy, proving just what can happen in the sport of kings when the racing gods smile down.
Highland Reel didn’t need the gods to win the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. He just needed Ryan Moore.
The four-year-old was allowed to dictate his own pace under Moore and never looked in trouble in the straight as he kept finding for pressure, running to his best with an RPR of 122.
Aidan O’Brien mentioned a number of overseas targets for Highland Reel and all of them are in races he looks capable of winning from an RPR perspective.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf has a ten-year winning average RPR of 122.3, the Hong Kong Vase stands at 119.1 and the Cox Plate is 120.7.
The Cox Plate could be the trickiest assignment of the three, as draw and pace can be important – and he would face a superior rival in the form of Winx (126).
Back in America superstar filly Songbird took her unbeaten record to a perfect nine in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on Sunday.
Carina Mia (108) put the winner under pressure rounding the bend, but she faded in the final furlong as the champion filly kept up the gallop to score by five-and-a-quarter lengths. Songbird ran to form with an RPR of 119.
TOP OF THE CLASS: California Chrome 131 Art Sherman (US) (San Diego Handicap, Del Mar, 1m110y, 23 July)
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