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Watching his son and assistant, Alan, lead California Chrome around the Gulfstream Park shedrow shortly before 7 Sunday morning, trainer Art Sherman continued to marvel at the strength and energy of his newly crowned two-time Horse of the Year.
“I was going to walk him myself if they didn't show up,” he said. “It's a good thing I didn't; he might have lifted me right off the ground.”
California Chrome was happy and enthusiastic on his Sunday stroll, coming a day after he put in the last timed workout of a storied career that has made him the richest horse in North American racing history. He is scheduled to make his final start in the inaugural and innovative $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 28 at Gulfstream.
“He looks good. His legs are tight and cool, and he's holding his weight good,” Sherman said. “He's just an unbelievable horse. I've had a lot of horses all my life and been around some good ones, and he's by far the best I've ever had.”
Late Saturday evening at Gulfstream, California Chrome became only the second winner of Horse of the Year honors in non-consecutive years since the Eclipse Awards were founded in 1971, having earned the top honor following his Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1)-winning season of 2014.
Also selected the Champion Older Male of 2016, California Chrome follows in the footsteps of Hall of Fame gelding John Henry, named Horse of the Year in 1981 and 1984. Chrome won seven of eight starts including the Dubai World Cup (G1), Pacific Classic (G1) and Awesome Again (G1) and nearly $8.2 million in purse earnings in 2016.
“I'm just so happy that everybody voted for him. It's been quite a journey,” Sherman said. “We've been all over the world and it's hard to explain when you look back and see all the good times you've had and all the good people you've met throughout our journey. It's been a hell of a ride, I can tell you.”
California Chrome's only loss last year came in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) where he was second to 3-year-old champion Arrogate, his main rival in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus. Following the race he will begin his stud career at Taylor Made Farm.
“He'll just jog and gallop into the race,” Sherman said. “We'd like to school him in the paddock one day because it's a little different setup than he's seen and we'll stand him in the gate, all the fundamental things we do going toward a race.”
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