DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 26 (UPI) -- California Chrome, the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, went one better Saturday night on his 2015 Dubai Gold Cup runner-up finish, winning the world's richest race with deceptive ease in track-record time.
He did it despite a terrible post position. And after pulling him up, jockey Victor Espinoza had to dismount to fix California Chrome's saddle, which had slipped.
The 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit drew the No. 11 slot on a track which all season has been favoring inside runners. Espinoza was forced to race four-wide into the first turn. He continued on the outside, close to the lead, down the backstretch and through the stretch turn. When Espinoza asked him, California Chrome quickly accelerated and shot to the front. Espinoza kept his attention with a few cracks of the whip and he won by 3 3/4 lengths.
Mubtaahij, a local runner trained by South African Mike de Kock, finished well to get place honors. Hoppertunity, another American, finished third. The 2,000 meters, about 1 1/4 miles, took 2:01.83, shattering the track record of 2:03.09.
California Chrome struggled after missing the 2014 Triple Crown with a sub-par effort in the Belmont Stakes. And last year, after his trip to Dubai, various setbacks prevented him from running at Royal Ascot in England in June and in the Arlington Million in August. Taylor Made Farms then purchased an interest in the horse and his breeding rights and he was given a long vacation in Kentucky.
He returned to win the Grade II San Pasqual at Santa Anita in January, then won a minor handicap over the Meydan track in preparation for the World Cup.
Trainer Art Sherman said his fans at Los Alamitos, his California training ground, game him and the horse a big send-off when he left for Dubai. "I can just see what's going to happen when I get back," he added with a laugh.
The Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Breeders' Cup Classic remain on the horse's dance card, Sherman said.