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(be)Late(d) Run

The race was made for him. Not in the sense that it was the perfect race for him to run in, but because the track added it to their program speciically for him. Because his trainer wanted a prep race before his final start, and because even though it's his home track, where he trains, he's never run in a race there. His fans come out to see him in the mornings, but they've never had the chance to see him cross the wire there when it counts. It wasn't about money (the tiniest of purses), and it wasn't about the competition (his trainer was worried no one would want to take him on, in fact, and the track promised a payout to any horse that met him there). It was purely about letting him say goodbye to the place and the people who love him. Because when he leaves that stall in a few weeks, for the brand-new race that pays even more than Dubai gold, he won't ever come home again.

It was only 4:30, but the sun was already sinking low, and as he came onto the track for post parade, a shaft of sunlight fell between the cracks, lighting up the heads of both horse and his pony. Then it widened, so that it covered him wholly, and one more time, Chrome turned to gold. Molten metal, liquid fire, and oh, how he   s h o n e.

(There was never any question that he would hit the wire first. The next-lowest odds were around 30-1 and most of the field was 99-1, even at the post. They were horses who probaby couldn't have beaten him on their best day even if he was having his worst day. But it wasn't about that. You were running for second not because you came to lose, but because even if you didn't win, it was a honour to be on the track with him. To know that the next time someone looked at your horse's past performace, they'd see you once took on California Chrome.

And he left them in the dust, like everyone knew he would. Los Al is a tiny track - the attendance, even for Chromie, was a little over 5K. But every voice there was for him, raised like the glory given a pharaoh, because even if he doesn't wear that crown, out there, he's his own kind of king. He set a new track record, and the record his broke was the one set just this year, in the race that was named for him.)

In January he'll go to Gulfstream for the Pegasus Cup, a race that costs a million dollars just to think about a run. It's not done on performane, like the Derby - you have to buy your way in. If things play out the way people want them to, if Arrogate's connections can find someone who'll sell or lease or just give them their slot, then he'll have that showdown with Arrogate again. And then, no matter whose nose is in front - he's done. He'll go on to stud, and as far as I know, actually start standing for the season next year, right after he retires

He's six. They gave us so much more time with him than most owners of that caliber of horse would. He's the richest racehorse in North America - not just right now, but ever; he's made of chrome and gold and fire and fury, and he was born almost from nothing. He's got one more race in him, a race named for a horse with wings, but he - he can fly without them.

(Someone almost got punched in his filthy mouth today, too, for saying I abandoned Chrome for Pharoah. I n-e-v-e-r. Pharoah's year on was Chromie's year off, so I mercifully never even had to think about who I'd choose. Pharoah may be my king, but Chrome still has his hooves planted firmly in my heart.)