03/18/2015 12:21PM

Hovdey: California Chrome, Lea begin long quest for riches

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Art Sherman believes California Chrome is "dead fit" and ready for his start in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28.

With the mixed feelings of a man about to plunge into the dark unknown, Art Sherman bade a temporary farewell to California Chrome on Tuesday morning at Los Alamitos while keeping clear of the crew loading the 2014 Horse of the Year onto a van parked in a remote corner of the stables.

“I get too nervous with all that kind of stuff,” Sherman said. “It’s for the best if I just stay out of their way. Otherwise, it might be contagious.”

Sherman was dealing with what was merely the first leg of a long journey to Dubai, where California Chrome will compete in the 20th running of the $10 million Dubai World Cup on the evening of March 28, Dubai time (11 hours later than Pacific time). California Chrome will be running a counterclockwise 2,000 meters over a recently installed sand-based main track. The money needs no conversion, although the 2,000 meters was a different story.

“Just a shade under the mile and a quarter,” Sherman said, showing off his metric chops.

To be precise, 38 feet and 4 inches shy of 1 1/4 miles, but that was the least of Sherman’s concerns. The trainer has convinced himself that California Chrome was not at his physical peak when he was second to Shared Belief in the Feb. 7 San Antonio Stakes, California Chrome’s first start since late November.

“He’s dead fit now,” the trainer said. “The track at Los Alamitos can fool you. It’s a fast surface, and a horse has to work that much faster to get enough out of it. That wasn’t happening before the San Antonio. You could see it in the way he made the lead so easy, then his legs got wobbly near the end. But in his works since then, we took care of it.”

Trainers love to tinker and fine tune. That’s what they get paid for – that and snappy one-liners. Sherman’s ingrained concern was understandable, given the challenge of sending a horse more than 8,000 miles to run at night in the desert. But compared to the questions hounding the first marquee American horse to try the Dubai World Cup, California Chrome’s preparation has been a breeze.

The inaugural World Cup was run March 27, 1996, and all eyes were on Cigar, the 1995 North American Horse of the Year. Cigar began 1996 by winning the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 10, but then, 11 days later, trainer Bill Mott found an abscess in the same right front foot that had sustained a quarter crack four months earlier. The abscess was drained, and the weak spot was patched, and for the next 10 days, Cigar did nothing but walk.

Cigar was scheduled to depart for Dubai on March 16, an unshakable date. Mott finally was able to work his horse March 13, and then again on the morning of the flight. That night, Mott stood on the tarmac and waved at the cargo jet as it disappeared in the distance, bearing the best horse he would ever train. Later, Mott shared what he was thinking at the time.

“We missed a dozen days of training,” Mott said. “He’s wearing a patch. He’s had just two works in the last month ... and there he goes. I guess you have to call that unconventional training.”

Call it whatever you want, it worked. Cigar defeated fellow American Soul of the Matter by half a length in a brave performance that was hailed far and wide. Now, Mott is returning to Dubai with Lea, the runner-up to Constitution in last month’s Donn Handicap, after two unsuccessful runs at the World Cup with the champion mare Royal Delta over Meydan’s recently replaced Tapeta surface. Mott also finished seventh in 2003 with longshot Blue Burner.

“We’re going back with a dirt horse for the dirt,” Mott said. “I don’t know if he’s gotten his fair amount of attention because he’s a very special horse with a wonderful disposition. He should be a very good traveler.”

Mott didn’t spend too much time agonizing over Lea’s second in the Donn.

“I thought he had an okay trip,” Mott said. “He maybe didn’t get off the rail to go after the leader as soon as we’d have wanted, but take nothing away from the winner. Lea ran a good race – he just didn’t win.”

California Chrome crossed Mott’s radar a few times last spring as the colt prepared for the Belmont Stakes.

“He obviously handles travel pretty well,” Mott said. “And he’s a nice horse. Seems like he’s always a part of the action.”

Mott also is looking forward to meeting Sherman, who will be taking his first horse abroad. Mott was asked if there was any advice he might give the 78-year-old rookie.

“If Sheikh Mohammed asks you to come ride a camel in the desert, pass,” Mott said. “I was in a bunch who did it that first year. John Gosden and Simon Crisford fell off. Kiaran McLaughlin came back with blood running down the back of both pant legs. I stayed up, but believe me, I was never so glad to get off anything in my life.”

Fair warning, but how about tips for Sherman on priming a Horse of the Year to win the World Cup? A mischievous Mott wasn’t sure Sherman needed any help.

“Maybe I can critique him after the race,” Mott said.

Forego137 More than 1 year ago
Mott finally tipped his hand on Lea, C.C. better have his running shoes on because he is going to meet a very very talented horse in Lea and I for one won't be surprised to see Lea posing in the desert winners circle. Good luck to all and may they all have a safe trip. As for the others entered in the race they are talented but not as good on dirt.
John Swain More than 1 year ago
American races are counterclockwise, so I'm not sure why that is mentioned.
tommy More than 1 year ago
Il say this, if California chrome can win the Dubai World Cup , he will be horse of the year based on earnings alone!!! That would mean that shared belief will be forced to win breeders cup without allowing California chrome to obtain a top 4 stop , otherwise he will be horse of the year!! I guess it's a numbers game!!
Delrene Sims More than 1 year ago
Good Luck to a lll the horses in the races. Safe racing. I hope CC doesn't mind the counterclockwise!!! Special thoughts with our California racehorse extraordinaire, California Chrome!!!! We love you. And Mr. Sherman, definitely pass on the camel race.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
? am I missing something? We run counterclockwise here in the U.S.A.
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
You don't miss a thing Frank...your usually right on...
Dmarie Mayers More than 1 year ago
Love Americas favorite horse! We'll be watching, Run swift, Run safe... GO CHROME!!!
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Wow !! A lot of people bent out of shape because the names Cigar & California Chrome appear in the same article :) Cigar was 3 for 12 in California . THE GREAT INCOMPARABLE CIGAR got beat by 1/16th of a mile in The Hollywood Derby. I'm pretty sure Chrome won that race in a canter :)
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Cigar became a beast once they switched him to dirt.
Ann More than 1 year ago
And he lost the Pacific Classic on dirt.
JimMcCarthy1 More than 1 year ago
Yes, the great Siphon was sacrificed that day by Mandella to get Cigar beat. They ran the mile a few ticks slower (1:33 and 3/5 if I remember correctly) than the mile track record, and still had two furlongs to run.
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
Let me know when he wins 16 in row...
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
California Chrome boys and girls , California Chrome.............
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
LEA has a thrilling victory in the dubai World Cup winning by 3 Lenghts in a hand ride questions remain about California chromes last place finish in the desert. Was he just a 3 year old wonder?
mike More than 1 year ago
Bet you won't come back here an admit you're wrong after the race. He will hit the board. HOW MANY horses like him do you have in your barn? Right.
JimMcCarthy1 More than 1 year ago
You are ludicrous fool. Lea is infinitely more likely to be up the track than Chrome. Lea is a fragile hothouse flower who had to take a full year off after his victory in the 2014 Donn. Chrome won the KENTUCKY DERBY against 19 horses. Any questions dolt?
mike More than 1 year ago
Jim,this is his same old tired tune. Check out his comments on HRN and BH.
tommy More than 1 year ago
Everyone shared belief did not even qualify for Dubai!! In order to qualify for Dubai World Cup , you need to win anyone of these races, kentucky derby, Preakness, Belmont stakes, breeders cup, japan cup, Dubai derby!! Shared belief was out of he money in all of those races which is why he's not in it!! The best horse is shared belief everybody says but he lost to Bayern, California chrome, toast of New York in breeders cup!! If shared belief was the best horse, then how come he was not listed as the top 2 horses in earnings??? It was Bayern and California chrome!! That's why shared belief was out for horse of the year honors!!!
Laura More than 1 year ago
which of the races you mentioned did Blue Burner (mentioned in the article) win? they can invite whomever they wish, regardless of which races they have or haven't won, I'm sure Shared Belief was invited, his people decilned
Steve S More than 1 year ago
He was invited.
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
This has to bethe most moronic comment I have ever seen!
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
Your comment above isn't so much better.....
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
First dubai World Cup is by invitation only Second shared belief only raced in one of the above races mentioned and was mugged out of the gate Third shared belief is rated number one in the world currently Fourth cc will not hit the board in Dubai and will be retired upon his return as there are a dozen us horses that can beat him right now
tommy More than 1 year ago
Shared belief was not listed as top 2 in earnings in 2014 !! He is simply not good enough!!!
Steve S More than 1 year ago
Wow. Do you take stupid pills? As I said here after the BC. Chrome will never see the day he beats Shared Belief again. What a crock making him HOY. It was all done to continue the HYPE. Why doesn't horse racing just advertise better. have more handicapping shows and improve the sport instead of taking a mass crowd of people and bowing to their thoughts that Chrome is some kind of superhorse. again. Feel free to contact me if Chrome happens to beat Shared Belief. (it won't) I don't he beat the bulked up Bayern again, although a good speed duel could make that happen. Shared Belief was HOY. Everyone who is a half decent handicapper knows it.
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
You are so right! Cc was a good three year old that matured faster than the rest but he shoot his load as his performances have shown. Dubai is a bad move as he has no chance of a win LEA will do better and might steal it. If cc runs out I would not be one bit surprised. As foe HOY that is a laugh like Obama getting the Nobel peace prize. There are currently about 6 to 10 US horses that would eat cc's lunch. But these chromies are like a cult group with this colt. he is NOT a great horse and never will be. He was a good three year old and should be respected in that way and ONLY that way.
mike More than 1 year ago
Steve S, what are you on? SB didn't even travel anywhere. He's a very good horse with the chance of greatness. CC deserved HOTY as I predicted he would win, and he won decisively. Think you're the one taking stupid pills,Steve.
tommy More than 1 year ago
Shared belief was not listed in top 2 earnings in 2014 !!!! He is not good enough!!!
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
STOP THE SHARED BELIEF BASHING. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. THIS IS GETTING OLD & VERY BORING.
mike More than 1 year ago
Agreed! But I'm tired of f****** idiots bashing Chrome and connections.
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
I am tired of "bashing" either of them - ANYONE would be happy to have either horse in their racing stable... except maybe a few malcontents whose sole purpose in life is to sit on the sidelines and nag.
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
I am tired of "bashing" either of them - ANYONE would be happy to have either horse in their racing stable... except maybe a few malcontents whose sole purpose in life is to sit on the sidelines and nag.
mike More than 1 year ago
Yes and some on here should get a ban.
Big Rob stud More than 1 year ago
Which one of those did lea win? If he wanted to be in the race he would be.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Where the hehl did you get that from? Winning one of those races is not a requirement.
Franz Smythe More than 1 year ago
Don't get the argument. CC is one of many horses to win the big one, Kentucky Derby, and fail to do much else. At least he did win the Preakness too. Way too early to call him a great horse or a horse who peaked at 3. Give it time, the truth will be told.
Marc Rogala More than 1 year ago
We know he is NOT a great horse and I personaly think he is done and did peak as a 3 year old :)
mike More than 1 year ago
And some of know you're anti Chrome/connections. Bet you had a stroke when a CA Chrome won the Derby last year. Do you own a horse like this? You're a fool!
mike More than 1 year ago
And some of know you're anti Chrome/connections. Bet you had a stroke when a CA Chrome won the Derby last year. Do you own a horse like this? You're a fool!