California Chrome's Last California Ride
January 19, 2017
Leaving on a jet plane, won't be back again. Oh Babe, please don't go. Suddenly it was over. Just like that. Yet, for Southern California horse racing fans it was the ride of a lifetime.
"Chrome will fly to Florida on Friday, January 6. We'll train him up to The Pegasus. He'll be staying at Gulfstream Park. We'll get a couple of workouts with him over at the track. A day or two after the race he'll get on a plane to go to Lexington. He'll likely never be back in Southern California. He's going to be missed."
The words of Alan Sherman were sobering as the early cold damp morning at Sherman Racing along barn row at Los Alamitos Race Course. California Chrome, Kentucky Derby winner and the highest-earning thoroughbred in North American history, finished his last run ever in California.
By 5:20 Wednesday morning dozens of the ever-faithful Chromies, the chestnut's diehard fans, sentimentally gathered along the track rails lit only by the stadium lights. Exercise rider Dihigi Gladney and Chrome took two quick laps around the empty one-mile Orange County loop and then slipped into darkness toward the stables for the very last time.
"Right now he's training better than ever. Amazing. If he wasn't who he is, he wouldn't be retiring. But there's so much money at stake in the breeding. Every time you go out there to train or run you risk an injury. If it's a stud horse they're worth too much money."
The Los Alamitos course in Cypress has been extremely kind to Chrome and he recently returned the pleasure by setting the track record with a 1:40.03 time for 1 1/16 mile in the Winter Challenge on December 17.
Sherman recalled: "It is quite a while between The Breeders' Cup and The Pegasus. He ran perfectly. Lights out, eight-wide the whole way. He broke the track record and won by 12 1/2 lengths. It was pretty impressive.
"He ran great at The Breeders' Cup (Chrome placed second on November 5 as Arrogate caught him just before the finish line) and probably should have won that race. Victor (Espinoza, jockey) probably should have been a little more aggressive with him instead of waiting. He could have opened up on them around the turn and put the race away. But that's horse racing."
Chrome has one race left before he hangs up his track shoes: The inaugural running of the Pegasus Cup on Saturday, January 28 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. It will be the richest thoroughbred race in history with $7 million of the $12 million purse going to the winner.
"The track at Gulfstream is a bit sandier than most but Chrome has won on every different type of track you can imagine. So I don't expect the track to be an issue. He's never raced in Florida," said Sherman.
"We'll have a team of me, Dihigi, Raul (Rodriquez, groom) and the vet is going to fly over with Chrome. My horseshoer is coming also and my chiropractor is coming to work on him. He adjusts Chrome just like a regular chiropractor does on people.
"He works on the spine, adjusts the shoulders and hips. Chrome has been getting adjusted for about a year and a half now. It makes a difference. And I got a guy who works on him with a muscle, like a masseuse machine. It loosens up the muscles and everything."
Sherman on The Pegasus Cup: "I think Arrogate is probably the best horse going in there other than Chrome. There are horses that he's beaten before and a couple of the others that ran in The Breeders' Cup. But I think the winner's going to be Chrome or Arrogate."
"They plan on continuing The Pegasus Cup and next year it's going to be at Santa Anita. They're going to keep it going as long as they can sell those spots at a million dollars apiece.
"It's very expensive to get all this done. But he's earned it. We're not going to pull any punches going into a $12 million race. We can't leave any stones unturned. We're bringing whatever it takes to get the job done. And we're going to do it.
"There's a lot of pressure involved when you have a horse like this. Keeping him sound, happy and fit. Knock on wood, he's always been very sound and he loves what he does so much that it makes it easier on me."
California Chrome will be moved to Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, Kentucky, just a few miles south of Lexington within days following his final showdown at the Pegusus Cup in Florida.
"They've got a lot of good investors in this horse. It's worked out so good for us. Taylor Made Farm has been a blessing to get them in on this horse... because they're horsemen. They know what they're doing. They do a great job. It's been a game-changer for us," expressed Sherman.
"He's already got lots of great one-mares booked to him. He's going to have a great shot to be a good sire. He's getting the right mares. When Chrome's in Kentucky he'll be too busy studding to worry about anything else. He'll just know he's no longer in training to race.
"Me and my dad (Art Sherman) will both have a breeding from him every year. We'll get at least five a year from other investors and clients in Chrome. We're building it up. But we're not Baffert, yet." (Laughs)
"Chrome has been good for the fans. The fans love him. It brings people out to the races. It's just good for the business. My dad's going to miss him a lot. Chrome has averaged a million dollars a start this year. It's hard to replace that." (More laughs)
Sherman wrapped it up: "The racing industry understands how much Chrome has meant for thoroughbred racing here. The thoroughbred racing fans are certainly going to miss him. There haven't been that many horses that have reached the stature that Chrome has in Southern California.
"There's been Zenyatta and John Henry. Zenyatta had lots and lots of fans, drew big crowds and was a hell of a racer. John Henry thrilled us for about seven years. We have some of the best horses in the world here in Southern California.
"I told Chrome he was leaving Southern California for good but I don't think he understood me. It's not going to be the same in the barn without Chrome, that's for sure."
Now you're gone, California Chrome. Woe, woe, woe. The Golden State turns its lonely eyes to you. Chrome has left and gone away. Hey, hey, hey... hey, hey, hey.