In 2014, California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and then finished fourth at the Belmont Stakes because of an injury. The bone bruise injury sidelined him for months, and there was speculation that his career was completely over. Some rumors of euthanasia even began to swirl. However, it was just recently announced by trainer Art Sherman that California Chrome will be returning to racing sometime in 2016. At that point, Chrome will be a five year old, and reaching the prime of his career.
The 2014 Horse of the Year has a big challenge up before it, though. There have been a lot of examples of horses thriving later in life after not racing for a long time, but most of those horses never raced as two and three year olds. For Chrome to come back after two years off and be in top form is an unlikely occurrence, but even if he is able to come close to where he once was, he will still be able to win Grade 3 races with ease. It’s doubtful that Chrome’s team will decide to take that route, but it would give Chrome a higher chance of grabbing some quick wins. There’s also the possibility that he will never suffer a single setback of difficulty and be back in his old form right from the opening bell.
The revived interest in California Chrome has brought more attention back on this year’s Triple Crown winner: American Pharoah. He won the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed did it in 1978. For many racing fans, it was the first time that a Triple Crown had been won in their lifetimes. After having three so close together in the 70s, it was beginning to become an expectation, but the long dry spell started to get people wondering if anyone would ever do it again. With the structure and knowledge that exists within modern racing, winning three huge races like this over the span of less than two months is a lot of stress on a horse, and it is unbelievable that a horse could do it. American Pharoah hasn’t raced since the Belmont Stakes, but looks very likely to run the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park early next month. A good performance here would point the horse toward the Breeders Cup Classic, and put him in good position for next year.
The California Chrome team has said that the horse will be pointed at the Pacific Classic at Del Mar racetrack in 2016. To see Chrome race against American Pharoah would be amazing, and while there’s no way to know with any sort of accuracy if this could even happen, it is a nice thing to think of. Watching two champion horses like this would be a phenomenal moment for horse racing, and could create quite a stir within the community. It would be a highly publicized event, and might even rival the Breeders Cup in viewership. It would be the equivalent of a Mayweather-Pacquiao match, but with horses and not boxers. Horses, though, are notoriously finicky, and this is one of the things that makes horse betting so much fun. It’s very difficult to predict, although there is a science to it. Unlike with human athletes, it’s hard to know what’s going on with them physically and mentally, so while fantasy sports are impossible with horses, and betting on them is tough, handicapping a race correctly does bring about an immense sense of satisfaction. That’s just one of the many reasons why watching the Triple Crown races each year is so popular.