Dubai World Cup contender California Chrome’s connections, from left work rider Dihigi Gladney, trainer Art Sherman, part owner Frank Taylor and assistant trainer Alan Sherman pose for a photo after morning trackwork at Meydan racecourse on Tuesday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The ‘Chromies’ could not restrain themselves from gushing adulation of pre-race favourite California Chrome.

Trainer Art Sherman was joined by his son and assistant Alan along with owner Frank Taylor and exercise rider Dihigi Gladney at the customary series of press conferences held yesterday.

After a highly successful 2014 during which he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Holly Derby, Santa Anita Derby, California Cup Derby and the San Felipe Stakes, California Chrome was bestowed with the ‘American Horse of the Year 2014’.

However, 2015 was not as successful with the four-year-old coming close to winning the Dubai World Cup. But he wound up finishing second after chasing a furious pace and fading late as the Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned Prince Bishop kept on from the rear for an unlikely win.

After that disappointment, the horse was scratched a few days prior to the race due to a hoof bruise. After making the trans-Atlantic trip back home California Chrome was unable to run in the Arlington Million after being diagnosed with bruising on his cannon bones, thus ending his season prematurely.

“It’s exciting. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity given to a horse of his calibre. And to have him on this stage is just so exciting. He’s the first thing you think of when you wake up and last thing when you go to bed. It’s really exciting to be here,” owner Taylor told media.

“He’s just a big beautiful horse with very flashy looks and he’s got a great personality. He’s just one of those horses that have a presence or an air about him,” Taylor said.

After a rest of several months at Taylor Made Farm, California Chrome returned to training with Sherman at Los Alamitos Race Course and began his 2016 season by winning the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita Park to take his career earnings to more than $6.53 million (Dh24 million), while putting him in line to be the world’s richest race horse.

“That’s the goal and it’s a possibility, and if he does win here then he will be the number one in North America. And then, if he wins the Classic, then he will be the horse winner of all time. It’s just been an amazingly fine run. When we bought into him, we were not sure when we would run him. He is just such a good horse and he makes everybody look good. He’s just got class. He’s just got better and better,” Taylor added.

Trainer Sherman too was effusive in his praise. “Well I hate to get very high on him but I will tell you one thing. He is a five length better horse than he was in the last race. I think it’s just the way he has matured. I’ve had him since he was two years old and now he’s become a man. You watch him progress every year, after the derby and after that race here last year. And after that, I have watched him all over again and he just amazes me to tell you the truth. I was kinda ‘wow, look at him now’. He gives you a good feeling. You get chills watching him,” Sherman said.

“After you see him and watch him develop over the years. It’s like kinda watching your kid grow up and being 13 and 16 and 17 years old. How different they change and I have noticed a remarkable change in him. It’s kinda gives me goose pimples when you look at him now. I think about him when he was a two-year-old wiry, young horse that had talent but just needed time to develop. He’s at a growing age. Now you see him three years later and you say ‘wow, he sure looks different’,” he added.

Alan also could not stop praising his Chrome. “He’s been training great. He’s very forward in his training. He’s always been that way. He loves to train. He loves his job. It was a big plus getting him here early and giving him that run so that he could get acclimatised. I’m looking forward to Saturday,” the assistant trainer said.

“I think the time off helped him a lot. He did a great job at Taylor Made. He came in and looked just unbelieveable. And ever since he came back he’s been training forwardly. He’s never taken a step back. I’m getting excited about it,” he added.