In preparation for next month’s Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, there was a considerable amount of saber-rattling this weekend. The object of this demonstration was Arrogate (by Unbridled’s Song), winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita and the highest-ranked horse on the listing of Longines Best Racehorses for 2016.

The horse that Arrogate dethroned as king of the mountain in the Breeders’ Cup was California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit). He made his return to the races and prep for the Pegasus in the Los Alamitos Challenge on Dec. 17, and California Chrome did not leave his fans with any doubt of his overwhelming superiority on Saturday.

Racing with dead aim on the leaders but five to seven paths wide, California Chrome went around the final turn as if he were on ice skates, threw a sub-23 second quarter at his competition, and trotted home by 12 lengths, according to the Equibase chart.

The race should provide an adequate tightener for California Chrome, and his chief opponent is expected to race before the Pegasus, perhaps in the G2 San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 1. Past the Pegasus, the chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit will most likely be heading to Kentucky and a large book of select mares for the 2017 breeding season.

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California Chrome – classic winner and champion pictured at Taylor Made Farm, where he is expected to stand in 2017 for a $40,000 stud fee. Photo courtesy of Taylor Made.

Travis White, the stallion nominations manager for Taylor Made, said California Chrome would “probably breed 150 mares” next year, depending on how quickly the stallion settles his first 50 mares or so.

 

There has been considerable breeder interest in California Chrome, no doubt due in part to the horse’s durability to race effectively through his 5-year-old season and maintain soundness and high form. The horse is owned by a syndicate of more than 20 outside shareholders, not counting Taylor Made or co-breeder Perry Martin.

White said “Taylor Made will retain its existing equity” in California Chrome but also noted that Martin “might consider selling out some of his shares to the right people.”

The shares in California Chrome carry a single breeding season per year, plus proportional receipts from the bonus season pool which will be substantial. The reason for the value of the bonus pool from seasons is that there would be about three times the number of seasons sold as used by shareholders, and that money is split among the equity holders.

In addition, the initial shareholders have essentially cleared their investment in California Chrome just from race earnings to this point. Eighteen months ago, the decision to buy into the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner was a gamble that not everyone felt was worth the risk. At the time, California Chrome had taken some licks to his reputation and appeared to be facing an uphill battle to regain his championship form.

In hindsight, the purchases of shares in California Chrome seem almost like getting in on Polaroid or Microsoft before the marketplace appreciated their value.

Nobody is underappreciating the flashy chestnut grandson of Pulpit now.

And a whole bunch of mares are set to be covered by Chrome in his first season. If all goes as anticipated, he will return to Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky after the Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28, and then around the middle of February, when the Thoroughbred breeding season starts, California Chrome will begin covering mares.

White said “California Chrome has had the needed vaccinations already, and we can start test breeding when he arrives.” This is an important consideration because if the horse had to be vaccinated, stay in quarantine, and then be test bred before he started on his regular book of mares, he would be losing a big chunk of time and would be pushing his mares into an even shorter time frame for covering.

The Taylor Made crew, however, has all of its ducks in a line and are prepared to have a busy and highly successful breeding season with its star retiree come mid-February. Then 11 months later, they and the rest of the racing world will begin to see the first foals by California Chrome.

If the horse marks his foals with his own bold white markings, looking across a field of his offspring might make us believe that everything will be coming up Chrome.

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