It was the final audition before his final race.
And California Chrome -- the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner -- didn’t disappoint.
California Chrome emerged from his barn shortly after dawn Saturday at Gulfstream Park and breezed five furlongs in an effortless 58.81 seconds. It was the 6-year-old thoroughbred sensation’s final tuneup before the last race of his career, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream.
The Pegasus, the richest event in thoroughbred racing history, will be Chrome’s last challenge before heading off to retirement.
"He’s cruise control; that’s what I like," said Art Sherman, the horse’s 79-year-old trainer, who was on hand for the public workout after flying in from his home base in California. "That was an awesome work. I thought it was sensatioinal. We hardly ever press him to do anything. He was under hand, and I’m very satisfied with the work."
Like the rest of the racing world, Sherman is looking forward to a rematch with Arrogate, who defeated California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.
"I’ve been wanting a rematch for a long time now," Sherman said.
A full field of 12 is expected for the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus. But most see the race as a two-horse affair between California Chrome and Arrogate, with the others battling for minor shares of the jaw-dropping purse.
California Chrome had the oval all to himself Saturday as Gulfstream officials closed the track to all other horses for morning training. Horsemen and fans watched and admired the horse as he was put through his final serious tuneup under exercise rider Dihigi Gladney.
"He has such a following," Sherman said with a big grin. "I have 20 women coming out from Orange County [for the Pegasus]. They are all ‘Chromies,’ I call them. They have never missed a workout and I work him like at 5:45 in the morning.
"It’s probably been the biggest fan base I have ever seen," he continued. "I saw a lot of good horses, with this one and that, John Henry and Cigar, but I have never seen so many people love this horse like they do. He’s the people’s horse, I always thought."