Classic contender California Chrome on cusp of immortality
On cusp of immortality?
California Chrome will bid to add his name to the list of great American horses to have won the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Having finished third in the race in 2014 - a year in which he also won the first two legs of the American Triple Crown - he missed last season's renewal, but his stock has soared in the past 12 months.
A dominant win in the Dubai World Cup and two other Grade One triumphs back home mean he is the pre-eminent performer on dirt.
He will not have it all his own way, though, as the three-year-old Arrogate, owned by Khalid Abdullah, burst on to the scene with a 13-and-a-half-length win in the Travers Stakes.
With names like Alysheba, Cigar, Tiznow, Zenyatta and last year's winner American Pharoah on the roll of honour, the Classic reads like a who's who of American racing, and California Chrome's connections want to join that list.
Trainer Art Sherman said: "I look at the three-year-old (Arrogate) and think he'll have his work cut out.
"He's going to have to run every inch of the way. I think the big, red horse (California Chrome) will be breathing down his neck.
"He's just changed all of a sudden. He's a beautiful horse now. I'm so proud of what he's done in his career so far.
"He's a different horse now. When I saw him turn the corner after he'd been turned out, I could tell by each work he was getting stronger.
"I knew he'd need the race when he ran here (in January) and still won.
"Then he had a tough race when he beat Dortmund at Del Mar and he's a good horse.
"He hadn't been at his peak and hadn't turned the corner at that stage. Then I saw he was ready to challenge anybody.
"The last two races he's been under wraps. Sometimes I get a little bit spooked because I think, 'Wow'.
"I know he'll be in the Hall of Fame one day, which he rightfully should.
"If he could just win the Breeders' Cup it would be the coup de grace on my life. It's a very prestigious race and I'm looking forward to it."
Bob Baffert trains Arrogate and is well aware they are up against a champion.
"It's going to be a very big test for him. California Chrome is at the peak of his career right now," Baffert told At The Races.
"My horse was so impressive in the Travers. Coming into this race, we're going to need something like that just to be competitive with California Chrome.
"Maybe it was a one-shot thing, but I don't think it is, I think he can do it again. I think he's a horse that is getting better.
"I couldn't be happier with my horse and the distance is not going to be a problem for him. It gives us hope that we can knock off the big horse."
Frosted has been a solid performer for Godolphin in recent years but, on all known form, he has a bit to find with the market leaders.
"I'm really happy with the horse. He couldn't be in better shape going into the race," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
"We've got a good position (stall two) and should be able to save some ground to the first turn and we'll see what happens from there.
"It's a tough race, but my horse is doing great and should be three from three since he ran in Dubai. He got beat a neck last time when things didn't go his way and he was giving weight away. I'm hoping he'll run a big race."
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Source: At The Races