California Chrome is again favourite for the $US10 million ($A13.3 million) Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse race as he tries to avenge last year’s second place.
The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner’s most likely challengers will be Godolphin-owned Frosted, Travers Cup winner Keen Ice and Special Fighter who has won three races at Dubai’s Meydan track in the past four months.
“I have a lot of respect for Frosted, but I’m not worried about one horse. I have to be worried about all of them,” California Chrome’s co-owner Perry Martin said.
In 2015, the now five-year-old also drew wide in the 10-furlong (2000m) race when second to Prince Bishop.
This year’s draw was also unkind on the 13-8 favourite, who will run from gate 11 of 12 on Saturday night.
“I’m confident Victor (Espinoza) will be able to move him in and get him a nice spot and we’ll take our shot down the lane,” Martin said.
California Chrome has been in Dubai for more than two months, whereas last year he arrived 10 days before the race.
“He wasn’t 100 per cent when he ran,” Martin said.
“This year he’s acclimatised. He’s had a race over the track. He’s at home here now and if he’s comfortable he’ll run better.”
Such has been the hype around California Chrome, who has won his only two races this year, the rest of the field might feel overlooked.
“When we first arrived we thought the race had been renamed the ‘California Chrome Invitational’, because that was all I saw,” Jerry Crawford, co-owner of Keen Ice, said.
A switch to a dirt track last year to help attract US horses seems to have paid off, with eight American horses in the 12-horse field.
Keen Ice, who has drawn the inside alley, prefers to ride in the pack and will hope to shrug off a seventh-placed finish in a lead-up race at Meydan in early March.
“Our horse is pace sensitive. He needs a good pace but I don’t see how he won’t get that on Saturday,” Crawford said.
Frosted is another serious contender. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin but trained by Kentucky’s Kiaran McLaughlin, the four-year-old colt was another to triumph in his warm-up race and in the saddle will be last year’s winning jockey, William Buick.
“There’s a lot of speed in the race, which should give us options,” Buick said.
“He’s a pretty versatile horse and I don’t think there’s any point in making a complete plan. I’ll keep an open mind and keep it simple.”