Opinion: California Chrome has no Right to be at the Royal Ascot

California Chrome

I would have been about 15 years old back in 1994 when I firmly believed that Michael Jordan, 31 years old at the time, was about to become an impact player at the Major League level. My rationale was no more than the fact that he was special. He was a once in a generation talent, at the very least capable of hanging with the best at any sport that wasn’t either gymnastics or polo. Further, I was confident that he possessed the mental fortitude to excel where others would fail.

Of course we know how this turned out.

California Chrome being shipped to Royal Ascot in preparation for the Prince of Wales Stakes gives me a eerie sense of deja vu.

I’ve really tried to hang in there with Chrome’s connections. After Steve Colburn’s ‘cowards’ rant post Belmont Stakes I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was a new owner, he was emotional, he wasn’t aware of the history of the sport, and how past Triple Crown winners had to overcome fresher horses in their conquests as well, and that changing the rules now would take away from what winning the Triple Crown really represents.

After the Breeders Cup I could see both sides of the argument for running on the turf at Del Mar. From one perspective, Chrome was ready to race, and at the same time it may not have made sense to ship him half way across America to Churchill Downs for the Clark Handicap, thus making the Hollywood Derby a good option despite the change of surface. And on the other hand was the obvious. That this was the easy road to clinching Horse of the Year and Champion 3 Year Old. But despite the ladder, I hung in there with support of the Dumb Ass Partners.

This week everything changed.

From my perspective it makes no sense to ship California Chrome to England to race against the best turf horses in the world whilst running in the opposite direction around the track. Even Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman’s takes a similar view.

I was looking forward to giving him a rest,” he told the Daily Racing Form.

“I’m not sure everyone realizes that this is going to be a tired horse. That was a hard race on him.”

“I’m going to miss looking down the shed row and seeing the horse in his stall.

“It’s going to be hard on him, too. He’s been with the same groom, the same people since he was a two-year-old.”

I suppose more than anything I would like to know what is being chased here. Certainly not a winning streak as Chrome has lost two in a row and hasn’t won a race on the dirt since last May. Certainly not money, because the good money, the easy money is back home in America on the same dirt tracks where Chrome built his legacy.

More than anything, and my feelings for California Chrome’s owners aside, I have a deep admiration for the racehorse. A racehorse so talented he won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with ease while captivating a nation in the process. I would hate more than anything to see him beaten badly at Ascot and never have the chance to avenge his losses to Bayern and especially to Shared Belief.

When Michael Jordan decided that he would try his hand at a new sport he was coming off 3 straight NBA Championships and an Olympic gold medal. He wasn’t just the best at basketball, he was sports royalty. He was quite possibly the best ever at what he did.

As for California Chrome, he’s a great horse. If it weren’t for his rival Shared Belief he could be considered the best since the days that Curlin was still at the track. But its what he’d done lately, or more appropriately, hasn’t done lately that makes me question if change in both surface and racing direction on the other side of the world is really in order.

Hoof Blitzer

Tom Franklin is a senior contributor at US Racing.
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