California Chrome will take to Meydan Racecourse on Thursday in a weighted handicap stakes race offering a $150,000 purse. The 1 1/4 mile contest will serve as an opportunity to acclimate horses to the destination of the Dubai World Cup on March 26th. The winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes will be strapped with an additional 15 pounds when he tests the track this week.
Horse players who know their history will recall that Curlin, who won the 2007 Preakness Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was also given a 15 pound handicap when he ran at Meydan Racecourse prior to his 2008 victory at the Dubai World Cup. This could very well be a positive sign of things to come for Art Sherman’s prized trainee. He will have Victor Espinzoa in the saddle for both Thursday’s test run and the Dubai World Cup.
The preparations for California Chrome’s run overseas began in January following his dominant win at the San Pasqual Stakes. Chrome beat Imperative and Hoppertunity in a time of 1:43.39 over a distance of 1 1/16 miles at one of the highlight races from Santa Anita’s winter schedule.
Obviously, this will not be the 2014 Horse of the Year’s first trip to Meydan Racecourse. California Chrome was here last year when he placed second behind Prince Bishop at the last Dubai World Cup. Expectations are high that the five-year old will win one of the biggest cash prizes awarded in any race. His lifetime record of 10-3-1 in 19 starts has earned him a $6,442,650 in winnings and his handlers have made it no secret that this will be his final year of competition before he rides off in to retirement.
By all accounts, Chrome is the best horse in Dubai right now but he’s not the only familiar face for American race fans. Keen Ice has also shown some promise on the dirt track at Meydan Racecourse during a recent training session and is pointed towards the Al Maktoum Challenge on March 5th. It’s important to realize that Keen Ice has not won a race since his rousing upset of American Pharoah at last summer’s Travers Stakes. Frosted, who won the second round of the Al Maktoun Challenge, will likely run again against Keen Ice in the third.
The results out of Meydan Racecourse will be interesting to see as we pace ourselves towards the Dubai World Cup, and all eyes remain firmly focused on how California Chrome is faring as the expected favourite for the 2-mile epic.