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Martin Discusses California Chrome, Dubai Prep

Martin Discusses California Chrome, Dubai Prep: Last year, California Chrome ran in the Dubai World Cup (GI) at Meydan Racecourse amidst a sea of criticism from well-intentioned fans who believed he did not belong on the world stage. He finished second and proved them wrong (unless finishing second in a Group I event is suddenly a bad thing).

This time around, California Chrome’s desert schedule includes one local prep race on Thursday, in a 2,000-metre handicap against a field of horses unknown to most average American racing fans. By coming early, owners Perry Martin and Taylor Made Farm hope California Chrome becomes accustomed to the racetrack sooner.

Seen as a controversial figure by some, Martin commented on the changes surrounding California Chrome, his Dubai plans, the rest of the year and more. His horse will retire to Taylor Made after the Breeders’ Cup.

Why Taylor Made?

“Denise and I visited Lexington last June (right at the end of the breeding season) and saw two farms a day,” Martin explained. “We felt (their) stallion roster body condition for that late in the season was excellent and the overall level of care was unsurpassed. The staff showed an unmatched eye for detail that was very impressive to us.”

As for the handicap race on Thursday, Martin seems optimistic.

“Chrome has been training very well and I expect his usual top effort.”

Few American handicappers are really familiar with Meydan and only watch during the Dubai World Cup card. They replaced their synthetic footing with traditional dirt in order to attract top American stars. Martin believes it resembles American dirt.

“I really don’t know that it is much different in composition. The races are held at night and the maintenance crew is very good at keeping the right level of moisture in the track surface.”

The Dubai World Cup this year will be held on March 26 and could include other American stars such as Frosted, Keen Ice, Mshawish and Hoppertunity, as well as international competition. Martin is not bothered by the prospect of facing any horse.

“We target the highest level races and take on all comers,” Martin pointed out. “At this level of racing every horse is a threat, depending on the trip, so there is no single horse we are worried about.”

Before a late injury derailed him, California Chrome was supposed to take on all comers in the Prince of Wales (GI) on grass at Royal Ascot last summer. While Ascot is not the cards again, grass races are not out of the question back home.

“It is nice to have the grass option as it opens more possibilities in prep-race scheduling. Again we have two main targets, the Dubai World Cup and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Which preps we choose will depend on how the horse is training.”

Finally, Martin was given a chance to offer his thoughts on how the media portrays him. Certain fans who are sympathetic towards former partner Steve Coburn (who sold his share to Taylor Made) might consider Martin a “villain” in the racing world.

“For me, this year is about the horse. If someone wants to make it about me then that is their agenda. What drives their agenda is the more interesting question.”

Fair answer. In today’s racing world, it is rare to see a Kentucky Derby (GI) champion compete as a 5-year-old horse, especially one not gelded. Perry Martin and Taylor Made are sporting enough to give a full season another attempt, and the industry can only benefit from California Chrome’s active presence, whether he wins or loses.

California Chrome Dubai

California Chrome with Dihigi Gladney up and Alan Sherman earlier this year. Photo: Clockers’ Corner / Zoe Metz