03/24/2015 12:26PM

Meydan: California Chrome breezes easily

Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club
California Chrome, with Dana Barnes up, breezes about a half-mile Tuesday at Meydan in preparation for the Dubai World Cup.

California Chrome very early Tuesday morning had his final work for the $10 million Dubai World Cup and his first-ever work for exercise rider Dana Barnes.

Barnes, the longtime major work rider for trainer Bob Baffert, is in Dubai overseeing the Baffert-trained candidate for the Golden Shaheen, Secret Circle. It was Victor Espinoza, California Chrome’s jockey, who proposed that Barnes work the horse when he breezed this week at Meydan. Willie Delgado, California Chrome’s regular exercise rider, handled regular gallops, not workouts, and Espinoza – an old acquaintance of Barnes – wasn’t planning on traveling to Dubai far enough in advance of the World Cup to be here for the breeze.

“Victor was at our barn to work American Pharoah before the Rebel, and he said, ‘Oh, you’re going to be over there! You can work him,’ ” Barnes said.

That was fine with Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer, who took the longest plane trip in his 78 years, arriving Monday from California in time to see California Chrome’s breeze, an easy 800 meters, about a half-mile, just past 5 a.m., long before sunrise. There are no official workout times given at Meydan, but California Chrome worked in about 50 seconds, according to observers in the grandstand, coming home quickly after starting at a moderate clip.

Barnes, at least, was impressed.

“Wow, he’s a freak of nature,” she said while slowly riding California Chrome back to the international stables, a trek of nearly a mile down a horse path.

:: DUBAI WORLD CUP: Get PPs, watch Saturday’s Meydan card live

California Chrome, the reigning Horse of the Year, was a bit slow to warm up, Barnes said, but came alive once Barnes let him work. She said the colt comfortably handled the sand-based Meydan main track that was installed following the 2014 World Cup, the last of five contested on the synthetic Tapeta surface.

“I don’t think we’d have come if the track here still were Tapeta,” Sherman said later Tuesday.

Sherman hesitated at first to commit California Chrome to the World Cup, but the colt’s owners, Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, wanted to make the trip, and Sherman relented. California Chrome traveled here a week ago with Sherman’s son and assistant, Alan, and Sherman said he was relieved to arrive and find California Chrome happy and healthy.

“He’s holding his weight real good. He just dives into his feed tub,” Sherman said.

California Chrome now is expected to face eight foes in the World Cup, contested around two turns at about 1 1/4 miles with a scheduled post time of 1 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. Ron the Greek, who had a chance to be a major player with the World Cup back on dirt, was withdrawn from consideration by his Saudi Arabian connections Monday due to an injury. The World Cup, which was to be drawn Wednesday, will include African Story, Candy Boy, Epiphaneia, Hokko Tarumae, Lea, Long River, Prince Bishop, and Side Glance.

Lea, the other American to ship last week for the race, galloped Tuesday morning and was expected to blow out during his morning training Wednesday, with trainer Bill Mott in attendance.