California Chrome: Future Polo Pony?

Nah, but a man can dream…

At 5:30am on Monday morning, polo champion Nic Roldan and friends arrived at Gulfstream Park outside Miami to meet The Champ himself, California Chrome…and what an experience it was. We had unprecedented access to this amazing horse in one of the most important weeks of his life, as he prepares for his final career race in the inaugural $12,000,000 Pegasus World Cup this Saturday.


First we watched him get tacked up and head out to the track to train. Afterwards we were allowed hands on access as he was cooled down and bathed. Nic even got to hold California Chrome, which he admitted was quite a surreal moment.

California Chrome heading out to work in the pre-dawn hours. ©Enrique Urdaneta
Post exercise bath for California Chrome with Juan Pablo Quiroga & Nikki Walker. ©Enrique Urdaneta

This was a serendipitous meeting of two entities at the top of their game, and highlights how these two regal disciplines can compliment each other. Polo is a fantastic avenue for OTTBs. In fact, over half of Nic’s string of polo ponies are OTTBs.

It was wonderful how we were welcomed and how the racing fraternity was interested to hear about the OTTBs used in our sport. As polo has evolved, Thoroughbreds have become prolific in the sport. Their speed, athleticism and heart make them a natural fit in the sport. We look for horses 15-15.2 hands with short cannon bones, good angles at the hocks, body & head carriage, and of course sound and quiet. Ideally in polo we look for mares, as they can play high-goal in 2-3 years while geldings typically mature later in our sport.

One of Roldan’s OTTBs, Cubana, earned Best Playing Pony on Jan. 8th, 2017 in the Joe Barry Game in Wellington. ©Alex Pacheco/

One of polo’s most well known ponies was a chestnut with a blaze down his face called Aiken Cura, so it was not hard to see a resemblance. On the way back we joked that California Chrome was not too big for polo and given that he’ll be retiring this weekend, he may just make it in time for the US Open Polo later this year. Well, in our dreams anyway.

We would like to thank the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance for their enthusiasm and help in making this possible. A special thanks must also go to co-owner Duncan Taylor of Taylor Made Farm for this rare opportunity, as well trainer Alan Sherman to allow us access to this awe-inspiring athlete. The group also really enjoyed talking to Dihigi Gladney, California Chrome’s exercise rider. And one final shout-out to legendary racing photographer Barbara Livingston, who captured the moment as only she can.

Team Chrome: Trainer Alan Sherman, Groom Raúl Rodriguez, Work rider Dihigi Gladney. ©Enrique Urdaneta
L-R California Chrome, Alan Sherman, Nikki Walker, Nic Roldan, Juan Pablo Quiroga, Luchino Ortiz de Urbina,      Julian de Lusaretta, Kris Kampsen & Daren Tamplin.

About the Author

Nic Roldan is the present leading American polo player with an impressive 8-goal handicap rating. He is also the youngest polo player in the world to win the prestigious U.S. Open Polo title at the age of 15 and is currently Captain of the U.S. Polo Team.