California Chrome became the highest-earning thoroughbred in North American history Saturday when he impressively and decisively won the $10-million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates.
It was vindication for the popular California-bred. Chrome finished second in the race last year, part of a disappointing campaign for the 4-year-old. Returning to win this race was one of the reasons he was brought back as a 5-year-old. Most horses of Chrome's caliber are placed into stud by that age.
Chrome had more than $6.5 million in earnings before winning $6 million in Saturday's race. The former record-holder was Curlin, with about $10.5 million in earnings.
There was concern that Chrome would be hindered by his No. 11 post and some recent walks where he appeared lathered. But it didn't matter under the lights Saturday as trainer Art Sherman had the horse prepared just right.
Victor Espinoza sharply broke him and took him up near the lead. He ran most of the race three and at times four wide before accelerating in the stretch in a way that truly underscored the horse's place in history. The winning margain was almost four lengths.
It was even more impressive when, after the race, it was seen that Chrome's saddle had slipped back near his hind end, yet it did not deter him.
"The saddle was slipping back a little further and further," Espinoza said. "So I didn't want to take any chance, so I let [him] go."
Chrome won the 1 1/4-mile race in a track record of 2:01.83. Mubtaahij finished second, and California-based Hoppertunity was third. Other U.S.-based horses in the race were Frosted (fifth), Mshawish (sixth) and Keen Ice (eighth).
Sherman was even a little teary eyed in the winner's circle.
"Just to get him back and be here with all of my friends, it's the dream of a lifetime," Sherman said.
Chrome became the third Kentucky Derby winner to win the world's highest-paying race. Silver Charm (1998) and Animal Kingdom (2013) also won this race.
If the current plan holds, Southern Californians will get at least two more chances to see this winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. After some time off, he's expected to race at Del Mar, possibly in the Pacific Classic, and then conclude his career in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Chrome's inauspicious beginnings, bred for $2,500 to an $8,000 mare, and his rise to racing royalty have steadily been growing his fan base nationally, but especially in California.
His legion of followers, including some 17,500 on Twitter, call themselves Chromies. The horse has shown an affinity for a special brand of cookies, which fans liberally send to the horse's stable at Los Alamitos.
After last year's second in the World Cup, Chrome spent the rest of 2015 being shipped from place to place, but something always kept him from running. He was finally sent to the farm, where he was able to put on needed weight and rest.
He returned to racing in January, easily winning the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita. He then was shipped to Dubai, where he won a handicap race in late February.
Sherman had talked about how good the horse was looking, and at one point said the horse was five lengths better than he was a year ago. Sherman later backed off that a little as the race approached.
He was right the first time.
Follow John Cherwa on Twitter: @jcherwa
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