California Chrome was “a little tired” upon his arrival home at Los Alamitos Sunday morning, according to trainer Art Sherman’s son and assistant Alan.

“That was to be expected,” the younger Sherman said the day after “Chrome” returned from a nine-month holiday to win the San Pasqual (G2) at Santa Anita.

The 2014 Horse of the Year had not raced since his hard-trying second in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) last March 28. Now five, the popular California-bred is bound for another crack at the world’s richest race March 26.

But this time around, a different strategy is in play – ship in early and get a prep in over the Meydan track.

“We have options for his next race, but he will have one start before the World Cup,” Alan Sherman reiterated Sunday.

While Art Sherman had likewise endorsed the single local prep option, co-owner Perry Martin had said in the post-race quotes that Chrome should run twice at the Dubai Carnival to be spot-on for the World Cup. Does that signal another round of dissension within Team Chrome, reminiscent of the Shermans’ public disagreements with Martin’s management in 2015? Or will the influence of the new factor in the equation – Taylor Made Farm – work to ensure concord?

California Chrome is scheduled to fly to Dubai on January 21. Among his potential prep spots on dirt are the February 4 Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2), an about 1 3/16-mile event which may give a gentler progression from the 1 1/16 miles of the San Pasqual to the World Cup’s about 1 1/4 miles; a handicap over the World Cup trip February 25; or the course-and-distance prep, the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1) on Super Saturday, March 5.

Although nearly all of the U.S.-based Dubai World Cup winners prepped at home, Curlin is the notable exception, getting his tune-up at old Nad al Sheba. The Hall of Famer took the handicap option and outclassed them in an about 1 1/4-mile dress rehearsal one month in advance of the 2008 World Cup.

California Chrome developed a loyal fan club during his 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1)-winning campaign. Hence with this comeback, the flashy chestnut has renewed the excitement on a racing landscape recently vacated by retired Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.

American Pharoah’s Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert, spoke of the importance of such fan favorites to Santa Anita’s Ed Golden. Here are Baffert’s quotes:

Anytime a Kentucky Derby winner shows up, it attracts a lot of people. It’s a very important race the mainstream readily connects with.

It took Zenyatta about 15 wins before she started to get rolling and gathering a big fan base. Of course, the way she won, with her last-to-first running style, brought everybody on board, wondering if she could continue to do that.

There are so many horses that run every day, it’s hard to follow them all, so fans latch on to one and that creates excitement. Pharoah had a little bit of a following when he won the Derby as the favorite, but he didn’t get a heavy following until after he won the Preakness. That’s when fans felt maybe he was the one to end the 37-year Triple Crown drought.

Then after he did and made history, everywhere we went, it was pretty crazy, but it was a good crazy.

California Chrome is really good for the sport, and when he wins like he did yesterday, it’s important for the fans. When Zenyatta left, there was a big void, and here comes Pharoah. Now he’s gone and there’s Chrome, but he’s leaving for Dubai, so that will quiet things down.

But another horse will jump up. Every year, there’s a horse that will come along and generate fan interest. I think Santa Anita’s done a great job of promoting these horses and the races. It’s been a pretty good meet, considering you have to work around this (rainy) weather.

California Chrome photo courtesy of Benoit.

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