California Chrome culminated a fantastic 5-year-old campaign with his second Horse of the Year title in three years, being honored as Thoroughbred racing’s leading performer during Saturday’s Eclipse Award ceremonies at Gulfstream Park. With a legion of fans known as “Chromies,” California Chrome established himself as North America’s all-time leading earner in 2016.
A seven-time stakes victor in 2016, including smashing tallies in the Dubai World Cup (G1), Pacific Classic (G1) and Awesome Again (G1), California Chrome was also recognized as an unanimous winner in the Older Dirt Male category. He increased his Eclipse Award total to four, garnering Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old honors in 2014 following Kentucky Derby and Preakness triumphs.
Owned by the California Chrome partnership of Perry Martin and Taylor Made Stallions, California Chrome is trained by Art Sherman and ridden by Victor Espinoza. The bright chestnut will be remembered as one of the greatest California-bred racehorses ever.
Nobody knew if he would make it back to the races after his 4-year-old season ended prematurely due to injuries, with only a pair of runner-up finishes before being sidelined early in 2015.
He came back better than ever, earning $8,180,000 in 2016 to increase his career bankroll to a staggering $14,502,650.
Based at Sherman’s Los Alamitos stable, California Chrome returned from a near 9 1/2-month layoff with an easy score in the San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita in mid-January. He shipped to Meydan in Dubai for his next two starts, tuning up in a listed stakes for a 3 3/4-length Dubai World Cup tour-de-force, proving much the best despite traveling wide on both turns. After a four-month freshening, he came back to post a narrow win in the San Diego (G2) at Del Mar.
California Chrome left no doubt to his superiority in a scintillating Pacific Classic performance, cruising to a five-length decision with consummate ease as Grade 1 winners Beholder and Dortmund were left competing far back for minor awards. He delivered another smashing effort in the Awesome Again at Santa Anita, with Espinoza able to name the winning margin as he placed California Chrome under wraps by midstretch.
His seven-race win streak came to a halt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) but California Chrome still performed admirably recording a half-length second to Arrogate. Espinoza admitted afterward to being a little lackadaisical aboard the odds-on favorite, trying to win comfortably on the pacesetter once again, but California Chrome lost little in the eyes of his many fans.
California Chrome concluded 2016 with a 12-length thrashing of foes in the December 17 Winter Challenge at Los Alamitos and epitomizes the definition of Horse of the Year, performing at the highest level from January-to-December, racing at four tracks in eight different months. He will retire as one of the best horses of the modern era.