DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) It’s almost show time for ”rock star” California Chrome.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner tops an international field of nine Saturday for the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race. The 4-year-old colt has been training well this week at Meydan Racecourse, and Art Sherman says his 2014 Horse of the Year is all set for a winning performance.
California Chrome will be ridden by Victor Espinoza and break from the outside No. 9 post.
”I love it. Nine is a perfect position for our horse,” Sherman said. ”I’ve got all the speed horses to the inside of me and he loves to run from the outside.
”I’m just really glad to be here. We’ve gotten a lot of texts. He’s a rock star all around the world.”
He’s also the favorite in an attempt to become the third Kentucky Derby winner to capture the World Cup. Silver Charm won in 1998, and Animal Kingdom won in 2013.
The race, about 1 1/4 miles, will be run on a dirt track for the first time. Post time is 9 p.m. local time, 1 p.m. EDT.
”The surface is not a concern – good horses can run on anything, even Tarmac,” Sherman said.
Other leading contenders include last year’s World Cup winner African Story and Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia.
African Story is owned by Godolphin, the racing empire run by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
”African Story won this last year on all-weather and proved he can win on dirt (too),” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. ”With good horses like him, the surface really makes less difference as the best horses will handle any surface.”
The field, from the rail out, is Prince Bishop, Hokko Tarumae, African Story, Side Glance, Lea, Candy Boy, Long River, Epiphaneia and California Chrome.
Lea is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the first World Cup with Cigar in 1996.
”It looks very good and our horse handles it well,” Mott said of the dirt. ”I feel very good about him.”
California Chrome came up short in the Belmont Stakes in his bid for the Triple Crown, then finished sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby, third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, first in the Hollywood Derby and second in the San Antonio Invitational on Feb. 7.
There are two $6 million races on World Cup’s eight-race lineup totaling $29 million in purse money, the Dubai Duty Free Turf and the Dubai Sheema Classic.
Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Main Sequence is the lone U.S.-based entry in the Sheema Classic. Mshawish, trained by Todd Pletcher, is entered in the Turf.
The UAE Derby is a Kentucky Derby points qualifying race, and drew a field of 10 3-year-olds, including U.S.-based My Johnny Be Good.