California Chrome scored a popular success in the Dubai World CupPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Chrome strikes gold in Dubai World Cup
Report: Dubai, Saturday
Meydan: Dubai World Cup (Group 1) 1m2f, dirt, 3yo+
VICTOR ESPINOZA'S saddle may have slipped but California Chrome had the talent to ensure his connections' dreams of finally landing the world's richest race did not go the same way at Meydan on Saturday.
As if defying a wide draw was not enough of a challenge for last year's runner-up, Espinoza was forced to send the five-year-old for home as he felt his saddle retreating down his mount's back.
Trainer Art Sherman had boasted his Kentucky Derby winner was five-lengths better than last year and so it proved, as California Chrome streaked clear in the straight to land a decisive and impressive win.
Mubtaahij bounced back to form to finish second, beaten three and three quarters of a length, with Hoppertunity running third for America's Bob Baffert.
"He has done everything right, it was perfect," said Espinoza.
The rider added: "Sometimes it's better to stay a little bit further wide than being stuck inside but everything went well.
"I sent him out of the gate assuming I could take the lead but it was impossible, so I stuck right with the leaders."
'I didn't want to take any chances'
Espinoza admitted his hand had been forced in kicking for home as his saddle began to slip but said he was not aware of the extent of tack malfunction.
He said: "Turning for home, I couldn't wait any longer and I had to go because I felt like the saddle was slipping back. I didn't want to take any chances.
"I know it was really far back but I wasn't really paying attention."
The jockey also paid tribute to the team who have worked with the horse during his time in Dubai, adding: "I want to say thank you to everyone that follows me and all the Chrome team.
"I know it's not easy to choose the right jockey to win this race and it means a lot to me. I've been close twice, so third time was the charm."
'The people love this horse'
Art Sherman was equally thrilled with the result and thanked racegoers in Dubai for their warm welcome.
"He's got such a fan base, the people in Dubai love this horse," he said.
"When I was here last time when he won, he got a standing ovation and it made me feel really good. I love this place."
Return to Britain unlikely
California Chrome missed out on a tilt at the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2015 through injury, having been prepared in Newmarket at the yard of Rae Guest and Sherman all but ruled out a return to Britain this year.
The focus appears firmly on the Breeders' Cup Classic later in the year, a race in which he finished a narrow third in 2014.
Paddy Power trimmed California Chrome into 4-1 (from 6-1) for that race, with William Hill going to 5-1.
"I don't think [we'll bring him back to England] at this stage," he said.
"We'll give him 30 days on the farm to unwind then our ultimate goal is the Breeders' Cup."