TWICE American Horse Of The Year California Chrome’s wonderful career ended on a disastrously low note when he folded like a deck chair in the inaugural Gr1 $12-million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
Thousands of fans circled around California Chrome as he left the paddock for the last time in public eye. They were screaming and shouting at the King Of American horse racing, snapping more photos than the paparazzi who chase celebrities around Hollywood and jockey Victor Espinoza had to acknowledge the adulation like the Pope at his most jovial before the runners cantered off to the start.
Just behind them, the unassuming Arrogate, pretender to the throne, had only a small share of the attention as he made his way through the masses and onto the track.
Calfornia Chrome was well turned out and he handled the attentions of his massive audience without fuss. But there were those who predicted before the race that Arrogate had broken the champion’s heart when he beat him their close duel at last year’s Breeders’ Cup and perhaps they were right.
California Chrome was a fraction slow out of the gate – a negative to begin with as he had to force his way the front from the widest of draws to dictate the clip if he was to have any chance of winning the now richest spectacle on the globe. Instead, he failed to get around the pacemakers, ended up three wide and chasing, and was a spent force well before they came galloping into the home bend.
Arrogate, cantering along near the fence with a casual eye on the commotions outside of him, slipped into gear like those super-fast Mercs with the Tiptronic gears. He glided away from them like the motor car in question would do in a race with old Volkswagen Beetles, winning by 4.75-lengths.
With California Chrome all but pulled out of the race, Arrogate properly ascended the throne as the new ‘Best In The World’ – his Hall Of Fame jockey professionally paying tribute to the former Ruler and almost playing down the sensational performance of his own mount.
“Chrome just didn’t fire his race today at all. Believe me, that’s not the California Chrome I know,” said Smith.
Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert said: “When I saw him take off, I knew it would take something really special to get him.”
California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman commented: “This is the first bad race he’s ever run. He’s going to the breeding shed, I’m just hoping his babies come back to me, three years from now.”