04/10/2015 2:05PM

Hovdey: Chrome could face uphill climb at Ascot

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There has been plenty of uninformed speculation about California Chrome’s English adventure and whether it will turn out to be excellent or not. Just for a change of pace, how about a little informed speculation on the subject?

John Gosden knows the American racehorse better than any top British trainer working today. After all, he had to deal with them for the first decade of his career, during which time he trained champions Royal Heroine, a European transplant, and Bates Motel, who was American through and through.

Back in his native Britain, Gosden has won the Epsom Derby, the Epsom Oaks, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas (for a total of 3,000 Guineas), two runnings of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and four runnings of the English St. Leger. He was champion trainer there in 2012, and in 2014 he campaigned a pair of Cartier champions: the 3-year-old filly Taghrooda and the 3-year-old colt Kingman, who was also Horse of the Year.

Both Kingman and Taghrooda were retired at the end of last season, leaving the Gosden stable bereft of a superstar. He was asked if he has anything of promise as the classic season approaches, kicked off by the Guineas meet at Newmarket the first week of May.

“I don’t quite have a Kingman, if that’s what you mean,” he said. “I have three colts that I’ll be testing in some trials this week. But usually if at this point you’re still messing around with three, you don’t have one. If you’ve got a real Derby horse, you know a long way out.”

On Friday, a Gosden filly finished second in a maiden race at Leicester, which was worth a whopping $1,410. Such is the state of British racing, with a feast-or-famine purse structure that belies its international reputation of quality racing. It must be the accent.

Gosden stables his horses on Newmarket’s Bury Road, the fashionable side of town hard by the famous uphill gallops. California Chrome, on the other hand, is living in a yard closer to the racetrack owned by trainer Rae Guest.

“We call it the race-course side,” Gosden said. “A little less hills than over here, but that shouldn’t bother California Chrome. He should be perfectly happy over there since he’s probably not used to galloping up the 6 1/2-furlong track at Santa Anita the wrong way.

“Rae Guest is a friend, a good horseman, and a talented guy,” Gosden added. “He’s a wise choice to advise them.”

If recent accounts are to be believed, primarily attributed to majority owner Perry Martin, California Chrome will be pointed toward a possible start in the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday, June 17, one of the highlights of the Royal Ascot meeting. The purse is roughly $770,000.

“That will be interesting,” Gosden said. “They run downhill, through Swindley Bottom, and then he has to climb. It’s a true blue-ribbon event – nothing wrong with that.”

Gosden won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes last year with The Fugue, a filly familiar to American audiences after her pair of game but troubled runs in Breeders’ Cup events on firm turf at Santa Anita. She got her ground at Ascot on the big day, breaking the course record.

“It’s a stiff track and a real mile and a quarter,” Gosden said. “The last mile is a considerable climb, what we call ‘on the collar,’ which means it rises all the time.”

At this point, the idea of a California-based dirt horse converting to a European-style galloper in time for one of the toughest 10-furlong races in the British Isles is beginning to seem absurd. American horses, always running and training on flat, left-handed tracks, end up being best suited to running on flat, left-handed tracks.

“You’re dealing with a different conformation as well as pedigree,” Gosden said. “The turf course at Ascot, if he does run there, is a very fair track. It’s sand-based, and it was re-laid six or eight years ago. When he gets to a race, I wouldn’t want to see him run on soft ground, though, which we could get with a summer rain. I don’t think that would suit him at all.”

Gosden was in Dubai with a runner in one of the lesser races on the World Cup card – which means it was only worth a million bucks – and he was impressed with California Chrome’s second-place finish in the big one.

“He was wide all the way and strongly compromised there,” Gosden said. “I just wish he’d been able to tuck in a bit somewhere, but it wasn’t easy.”

As for his chances for success in a race like the Prince of Wales’s, Gosden preferred to let the horse do the talking. He did point out that the list of past winners is distinguished, including the likes of Ela-Mana-Mou, Stanerra, Bosra Sham, Dubai Millennium, Fantastic Light, Ouija Board, and So You Think, not to mention The Fugue.

“We’re delighted he’s here, but it’s beyond a bold move,” Gosden said. “One has to admire that.”

bhuvan khanna More than 1 year ago
Wish him all the luck!
Beverly Bonneau More than 1 year ago
Before Perry removed his website yesterday......he posted pictures of him and Denise visiting Chrome. And posted a picture of "the track". Looked huge but flat all the way around. WHAT track was HE looking at? Doesn't sound like the one this gentleman up top in the article is talking about......CC will be racing Downhill, then through Swindley Bottom, then the last mile is a considerable climb. I think Perry posted a picture of some other track??? WELL, good luck Chrome. Geez, I love this horse and what HE, the horse, has done with his jockey this past year. I hate to see him end his career lamed out bad or hurt bad. BUT Rae has him in training as of today, which all sites are blocked to the fans. Can't see any pictures or video's of him training. Due to whacko remarks against Perry ON Perry's site. So that's closed down. I don't think I'm following Chrome much more. NOT because I've stopped loving the horse. I love him more than ever. I just can't WATCH anymore. I already lost a horse of my own. THAT broke my heart. Not going to watch CC end up in a dog food can.
Rob Talstra More than 1 year ago
So your saying its better to race on hard dirt tacks here in America being pumped up full of drugs before a race? Or is it better for a horse to race on nice soft grass and no drugs like he will be doing....The horse has only raced TWICE this year! In 4 months! Dont you think you are overreacting a bit? If anything he has raced LESS! Now he is in better surroundings with easier footing.. Why would you think he is going to be lamed out or hurt bad? Makes no sense......
Gary Camejo More than 1 year ago
Pray he gets out of this venture safely
Gunner More than 1 year ago
Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail As the Chromies go rolling along. Up and down, in and out, Calimarch and right about, And our Chromies go rolling along. For it's firm and hot on the fields of Royal Ascot, Shout out the numbers, don't be wrong. Till our final ride, It will always be our pride As the Chromies go rolling alongggggggg! (apologies to Gruber)
casadaly More than 1 year ago
And oh yeah, the nobody that Chrome defeated in his turf win was just named Canadian Horse of the Year.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
a filly
minor_daria More than 1 year ago
Yeah... Canadian Horse of the Year. She didn't exactly face much competition.Beating a 3yo Canadian filly is a lot different than beating older European males.A LOT different! Gosden obviously doesn't think he has much of a chance.
russell More than 1 year ago
Other when Wesley Ward winning 2 yold races at Ascot and Fourstarsallstar winning the 1,000 Irish Guineas 30 years ago American horses have rarely tried and for good reason. American horses never run uphill and rarely downhill. And most can't handle soft to good ground.
casadaly More than 1 year ago
Funny-- folks talk about Chrome having to "adjust" to Euro style of running counter-clockwise, yet many a Euro has come here and adjusted to American style in big races with no problem and typically with even less adjusting time than Chrome is getting.
Lenny Mamola More than 1 year ago
good point never really gave that thought...cool thinking
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
BIG difference. There are left and right handed tracks in Europe so most of them already have experience with both.
Erin Casseday More than 1 year ago
Actually, alot of the trainers will school beforehand especially when they know they are coming here to race. Distinctly remember a couple of euro horses blowing the first turn in some of the earlier BC races.
Pat Lyons More than 1 year ago
Like i said its an honor & privilege he was invited #patsRightDontFightIt
Elizabeth Carlyon-Pitura More than 1 year ago
Winning races in the States is OK but thinking outside the box on occassion in to be saluted.
john More than 1 year ago
he has not won a dirt race since may!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! now he is suppose to beat europe's best at a mile and a quarter. not happening. his next win will come in a 5 horse field in cali over allowance types.
Tom Hickey More than 1 year ago
I love the trolls who've been saying stuff like that since the Belmont. do you know how stupid that sounds. Other than the HD which while a Grade I had a weak turf field, he's only raced at the highest level. 2nd to SB and 3rd by a neck in the BCC, and 2nd in the DWC doesn't make him an allowance level horse does it. *rolls eyes* That the uninformed type stuff Jay starts his article off with.....