Sunday, May 31, 2015

California Chrome: Not exactly a vote of confidence.

The Thoroughbred Racing Commentary published an in-depth look at California Chrome and his training ahead of this year's Royal Ascot meeting. (h/t to the Paulick Report) Rae Guest, the trainer tasked with Chrome's preparations in England, made some extremely candid statements in the piece which can only make me shake my head at this whole Chrome-to-Ascot.

Before I get to the quotes let me first express my interest in statements from trainers: About 99% of the time I pretend they don't exist. In the U.S., I can name about zero instances of a trainer saying anything other than, "the horse is doing great" or "he's full of energy" before a big race. How many times have you read or heard a quote from a trainer where they say "yeah, he's got not chance in this race"? That happens pretty much "never". Obviously, Rae Guest didn't attend the U.S. school of "Trainer Talk":

As we walk, I quiz Guest about how hard he feels Chrome's task will be at Ascot and his response is quite chastening.

"Impossible," he responded, after a pause for thought. "He's a good horse, there's no doubting that, and it's a very sporting challenge by his owners."

"But this is a new discipline for him. He's got to deal with a new track, a new style of racing, a right-handed bend, and an uphill finish." (emphasis added)

Um, wow.

Unless Guest is intentionally trying to tank the odds* on this horse (pretty much no chance in hell), you really can't have a trainer say something worse about a horse before a big race.

I'm as big of a fan as any of American horses traveling overseas to take on new and different challenges. I loved that Animal Kingdom took a shot at Royal Ascot, as well as the horses sent by both Wesley Ward and the Ramseys. But, in those instances, at least we are talking about turf horses and horses which were spotted in very specific races. This Chome deal is blind optimism or pure greed, I'm not sure which.

And think about Animal Kingdom for a moment: Animal Kingdom's pedigree was not only suited to running on grass, he was much more accomplished over the surface than Chrome. His second to Wise Dan in the Breeders' Cup Mile was far and away a better race than Chrome's Hollywood Derby score, and yet Animal Kingdom was no threat at Royal Ascot in a race much more suited to him (the Queen Anne) and where he, too, was trying to win after running in Dubai.

*Betfair has Chrome between 13/1 and 14.5/1 to win the Prince of Wales's Stakes. I wouldn't touch him if he was 40/1.

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