Is California Chrome Just Getting Better?

Art ShermanArguably California Chrome’s victory in last Sunday’s Pacific Classic was as good as any piece of form that has gone before.

That was the colt’s 14th victory from his 23 lifetime starts and his fifth on the bounce, which included a dismissive and emphatic triumph in the World’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup. He has now won over $13m, making him the highest money-earner of all time, and there is a strong case to be made that this cheaply-bred freak is getting even better.

The Pacific Classic victory saw him destroy the mighty Beholder, winner of this race in 2015, by a contemptuous five-length margin. Beholder herself owns a 17 from 24 winning strike rate, mainly at the highest level, and has never been out of the top two. In case you thought Beholder had underperformed, just look who was propping up the integrity of the form in third, the great Dortmund, winner of the Santa Anita Derby last year.

It was as strong a field as has been amassed in the last twelve months in North America and the victory was the perfect stepping stone to the next major target of the Breeders Cup Classic. It is hard to say who at this stage might beat trainer Art Sherman’s (pictured) amazing five-year-old in that race. Frosted is the second favorite in the sportbooks’ futures market at around 4/1, with California Chrome apparently generously priced at 5/4 with BetOnline or Bovada. Frosted has over five lengths to make up with favorite on Dubai form, so it has to be California Chrome who appears the value wager at odds-against.

Perhaps because the horse does all the talking, Sherman fails to get the plaudits he deserves. You will hear people state that anyone can train a great horse, but can just any trainer maintain that level of form, consistency and soundness over several seasons? Plenty of great horses have not won the races they should have because of the failings of their handlers. Often this is due to reasons such as over-working, ignoring minor soundness concerns that lead to career-ending injuries and just pure greed.

Sherman may be a one-horse wonder, but a wonder he certainly is and not only because he is 79 years young. He runs a shrewd operation and knows what makes his horse tick. He also had to deal with the destructive interference from what appeared from the outside to be a rather ignorant part-owner, prompting a wholly pointless trip to England. Fortunately an ownership change has created a more settled environment in which Sherman can call the shots. If he had been allowed to call every one, this horse’s record would be even greater.

Now Sherman looks to be performing his greatest achievement and that is to take this already dominant performer and make him even better. Because there is no doubt based on his latest effort that California Chrome is upping his awesome game rather than simply maintaining his stellar level. The latter would be an admirable achievement in itself. After all thoroughbreds are always hell bent on inventing new ways to damage themselves.

California Chrome has been the bane of the sportsbooks’ profit margins and there should be more pain to come for those bookies if the great horse’s bettors stay loyal to their equine idol in the coming months. On the basis of his Pacific Classic form of last weekend, he has no equal and is just getting better.