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Kabirkhan, California Chrome’s Top Earner, Now in U.S.

International standout dirt runner Kabirkhan, a flesh-and-blood example of the adage that a good horse can come from anywhere, has arrived in the United States where he’ll be conditioned by multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox.

Owned by Kazakhstan’s Tlek Mukanbetkaliyev, Kentucky-bred Kabirkhan began his racing career in that country and then found success in Russia. While Kabirkhan started his career with eight straight wins, he collected less than the equivalent of $35,000 total for those victories. But some of those races are important events in those countries and he earned his shot at a bigger stage.

It didn’t take long to make an impression under those brighter lights. In his Jan. 12 debut at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, he won an about 1 1/4-mile handicap by four lengths and off that effort trainer Doug Watson gave Kabirkhan a shot in the $1,002,604 Al Maktoum Challenge (G1) at 1 3/16 miles. Kabirkhan cleared the Challenge with ease, drawing off to a 4 3/4-length victory. 

“He’s just a really nice horse,” Watson after the Challenge win. “We had him working at home and before we ran him two weeks ago, we knew he was good but we didn’t know if he could compete in the races over here on this track … It’s not easy to come back in two weeks and run quite like he did there—real nice time and to do it so nicely and easily in the end.”

Off that top level win under Pat Dobbs, Watson prepared Kabirkhan for a start in the $12 million Dubai World Cup (G1) March 30 at Meydan, where he would try to match the 2016 Dubai World Cup victory of his dual classic-winning sire California Chrome  . That dream would not come true as Kabirkhan finished eighth, 18 lengths behind winner Laurel River .

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With 10 wins in his 12 starts, Kabirkhan is the leading career earner for his sire at $815,436. He’s also the first grade 1 winner for California Chrome, who was named Horse of the Year in 2014 and 2016. California Chrome currently stands at Japan’s Arrow Stud.

Kabirkhan arrived at Churchill Downs May 12 and has galloped each day. Cox told Churchill Downs media that he will take it slow with Kabirkhan before determining his first start.

“We’re just starting to get to know him and how he moves,” Cox said. “We’ll get to know him a bit more then start to get a couple works under him before we make any plans.”

California Chrome stood his first three seasons at Taylor Made Stallions and Kabirkhan is from his final crop during that stay at the farm near Nicholasville, Ky.

Nadir Khassanov purchased Kabirkhan for $12,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Mulholland Springs, agent.

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