California Chrome winning the 2014 Preakness Stakes
|Dam||Love the Chase|
|Damsire||Not For Love|
|Foaled||February 18, 2011|
|Breeder||Perry Martin and Steve Coburn|
|Owner||Perry Martin and Steve Coburn|
|Racing colors||Purple, green, donkey on back, green cap|
Graded stakes wins:
|Last updated on August 13, 2014|
California Chrome (foaled February 18, 2011) is an American Thoroughbred racehorse who won the 2014 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Bred in California, the horse is a grandson of Pulpit, with two lines in his pedigree to the California-bred 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps. The chestnut-colored horse was named for his flashy white markings, called "chrome" by horse aficionados. As a foal, he was nicknamed "Junior" in honor of his sire, Lucky Pulpit.
He is owned by Perry Martin from Yuba City, California, and Steve Coburn of Topaz Lake, Nevada, who named their partnership DAP Racing, standing for "Dumb Ass Partners"—a tongue-in-cheek response to a passerby who questioned their wisdom in purchasing California Chrome's dam, Love the Chase. California Chrome's trainers are the father–son team of Art and Alan Sherman. When California Chrome was two years old, he was sent to the Shermans' training stable. The colt's first win came in his second race, but he ran inconsistently until being paired with the jockey Victor Espinoza. The rapport that developed between Espinoza and California Chrome led to a six-win streak that included the San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby as well as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. As early as the Santa Anita Derby, dedicated fans—later called "Chromies"—actively supported California Chrome, who was called "the people's horse".
Coming into the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome was the morning line favorite for the May 3 race. Critics downplayed his chances of winning, but these doubts were rebutted when California Chrome took the lead during the homestretch and drew ahead by five lengths, winning by 1 3⁄4 lengths after Espinoza eased him for the final 70 yards (64 m) to avoid over-exertion. In his next race, the Preakness, he fended off two strong challengers in the homestretch, won by 1 1⁄2 lengths, and was dubbed "America's Horse". He was next shipped to Belmont Park in anticipation of running for the Triple Crown in the 2014 Belmont Stakes, where the horse and everyone around him faced a great deal of press attention due to his populist appeal and large fan base. In the race, California Chrome was stepped on by the horse next to him at the start, tearing some tissue from his right front heel. With no one aware of his injury until the race was over, he appeared to tire in the stretch, finishing fourth in a dead heat with Wicked Strong.
In spite of his loss in the Belmont, California Chrome was ranked the top three-year-old horse in the United States by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), and fifth in the world according to the World's Best Racehorse Rankings. Both chambers of the California State Legislature unanimously passed a resolution recognizing his outstanding performance . After his foot injury healed he was sent to Harris Farms for pasture rest from the rigors of the Triple Crown series. He returned to training in mid-July and entered the September 20 Pennsylvania Derby, ultimately aiming for the 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic.
- 1 Background
- 2 Racing history
- 3 Fans and publicity
- 4 Statistics
- 5 Pedigree
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Sources
- 9 External links
California Chrome was foaled on February 18, 2011, near Coalinga, California, at Harris Farms, the horse breeding division of the Harris Ranch. He is a chestnut with four white stockings[a] and a blaze.
As a foal, he was given the nickname "Junior" by the Martins because of his resemblance to his sire, Lucky Pulpit. Lucky Pulpit won three races, placed in several graded stakes races, and hit the board in 13 of his 22 starts. However, a viral respiratory infection damaged his breathing and limited him to racing over short distances. California Chrome's dam is Love the Chase, and he was her first foal. She was purchased for $30,000 as a two-year-old by an agent for a horse ownership group called the Blinkers On Racing Stable. As a two- and three-year-old filly, she was nervous and often panicked in the saddling paddock, in effect losing races before she ever got to the starting gate. She ran six times and won on her fourth try in a February 2009 maiden claiming race at Golden Gate Fields. After her win, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin became her owners, ran her two more times, then retired her later that year. Martin and Coburn hoped she would become a good broodmare, as she had a promising pedigree. When she retired, it was discovered that she had raced with a breathing problem—an entrapped epiglottis that restricted her air intake, but which could be corrected with surgery. As of 2014[update], she has given birth to three foals. The other two, both fillies, are full sisters to California Chrome. After California Chrome became a Kentucky Derby contender, Martin and Coburn turned down an offer of $2.1 million for Love the Chase.
California Chrome was bred and is owned by Perry Martin of Yuba City, California, and Steve Coburn of Topaz Lake, Nevada. Their wives, Denise Martin and Carolyn Coburn, are closely involved with the partnership, though they are not listed as owners on official records kept by Equibase. Perry Martin owns a 70% share in the horse and is the managing owner. Originally, the two couples each owned a five percent share in Love the Chase through membership in the Blinkers On Racing Stable. When Blinkers On Racing Stable dissolved the Love the Chase syndicate, both the Coburns and the Martins wanted to buy the filly, so they formed a partnership and paid $8,000 for her. A casual observer, knowing Love the Chase's modest race record, remarked that only a "dumb ass" would buy her, so Coburn and Martin named their racing operation DAP Racing, which stands for "Dumb Ass Partners". They created a caricature of a buck-toothed donkey to adorn the back of their racing silks, and put the initials "DAP" on California Chrome's blinker hood and the left front of the jockey's silks.
The Martins and the Coburns have in common a fondness for California Chrome, but otherwise have very different personalities and backgrounds. The Martins seldom talk to the press. Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times described them as the "quiet thinkers," noting that Perry Martin planned the mating of Lucky Pulpit to Love the Chase, mapped out a "Road to the Derby" racing plan for California Chrome, and promoted use of a nasal strip for the horse's races. By contrast, Hoppert characterized the more outgoing Coburns as the "public relations arm" of the partnership.
The Martins, from Chicago, shared an interest in horse racing. They moved to California in 1987, where Perry Martin was employed as a metallurgist by the Air Force and Denise briefly job shadowed a racehorse trainer in the Sacramento area. Today they own and operate Martin Testing Laboratories (MTL), which tests high-reliability items such as automobile airbags and medical equipment.
Steve Coburn, characterized by the media as "loquacious", describes himself and his wife Carolyn as "just everyday people". He is a press operator for a company that makes magnetic strips. Carolyn Coburn retired in March 2014 from a career working in payroll in the health care industry. Carolyn introduced Steve to horse racing, and when he was looking for a tax write-off, she encouraged him to buy into a racing syndicate instead of purchasing a small airplane.
Harris Farms, where California Chrome was bred and raised, had previously nurtured champion racehorses such as Tiznow, a two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner. Love the Chase was bred to a stallion named Redattore in 2009, but failed to conceive. She could not go back to him for rebreeding because he had been sent to Brazil. She was bred to Lucky Pulpit in 2010. CNN reported that the stud fee for the breeding was $2,000.[b] Steve Coburn said he had a dream not long before California Chrome's birth that the foal would be a colt with four white feet and a blaze. California Chrome was relatively large for a newborn horse, weighing 137 pounds (62 kg), and active, "running circles around Momma" within two hours of birth. Love the Chase suffered a uterine laceration while foaling, and was placed on an IV due to internal bleeding. The mare and foal were stall-bound together for over a month. She was kept on a catheter that administered anti-bleeding medication, and the farm staff checked her two to three times a day. Because people gave the colt extra attention and affection when they cared for his dam, he imprinted on humans as well as his mother. As a result, California Chrome became very people-focused, a trait that has served him well in race training. California Chrome lived at Harris Farms from birth until he was shipped to Art Sherman's training barn at age two.
The Martins and Coburns chose California Chrome's official name in 2013 at Brewsters Bar & Grill in Galt, California, a town halfway between their two homes. Each of the four wrote a potential name on pieces of paper and asked a waitress to draw them out of Coburn's cowboy hat. They submitted the names to The Jockey Club ranked in the order drawn. California Chrome, Coburn's choice, was first drawn, and the registry accepted the name. The word "chrome" comes from slang for a horse with flashy white markings. The colt was started under saddle by Harris Farms' trainer Per Antonsen, who described him as a "smart horse" who was "really nice to work with".
Sherman Training Stables
Perry Martin considered California Chrome a Derby contender even before the colt raced. He asked Steve Sherman, who had trained horses for Martin at Golden Gate Fields, to recommend a trainer based in the highly competitive southern California area. Steve suggested his father, Art, who had an "old school" reputation for patience with young Thoroughbreds and a small racing stable of about 15 horses, which allowed each animal to be given individualized attention. Art Sherman liked the enthusiasm of Martin and Coburn, but when Martin emailed a "Road to the Kentucky Derby" plan outlining which races California Chrome should run, Sherman was dubious. Later, Sherman's son Alan stated, "[Martin] mapped out a trail for this horse; it's actually worked to a 'T', so it's kinda amazing." Art Sherman downplays his role in training California Chrome, saying "This horse is my California rock star. I'm just his manager."
Sherman became a professional jockey in 1957, and turned to training racehorses in 1979. California Chrome was the first Kentucky Derby prospect that Sherman had trained, but he had prior experience with another Derby horse: in 1955, at the age of 18, he worked for Rex Ellsworth and was the exercise rider of Kentucky Derby winner Swaps. Art Sherman's assistant is his son, Alan, who is also a licensed trainer. Rather than run an independent stable like his brother Steve, Alan has worked with his father since 1991. He does most of the hands-on day-to-day work with California Chrome and stayed with him throughout his Triple Crown travels when Art returned to California to oversee the rest of the stable.
Unlike many of the high-end California Thoroughbred trainers, who usually are headquartered at Santa Anita Park, the Shermans kept horses at Hollywood Park, but when it closed in December 2013, Los Alamitos Race Course picked up some of the racing trainers who had stabled horses there, including Sherman Training Stables. Los Alamitos also took over some of Hollywood Park's Thoroughbred racing dates, but was better-known for Quarter Horse racing. The success of California Chrome, who was conditioned there over the track that had been recently expanded to accommodate longer races, created good publicity for Los Alamitos in advance of its new race meets.
Observers have commented that California Chrome appears to be a very intelligent horse, as he expresses curiosity about everything around him. He has certain idiosyncrasies, including a fondness for one specific brand of horse cookies.[c] He has a tendency to perform a flehmen response for no obvious reason, particularly when he is being bathed, prompting the press to claim that he is "smiling" for the camera. When walking in the stable area, he deliberately stops and puts his ears forward, "posing" for cameras when he hears them clicking. Another unusual behavior is that he will not walk forward out of horse vans designed for a forward exit; he will only back out. Racing idiosyncrasies include California Chrome's history of being slow out of the starting gate; in his early races, he grew impatient if he had to wait too long for the start and at times, he expressed anxiety by rocking from side to side, preventing him from being oriented straight forward when the gate opened. He generally does not run well in close quarters; two of his worst finishes were in races where he had the number one post position, and his fourth-place performance in the Belmont Stakes was attributed to both his injury at the start and the number two draw. Further, in two other races, he got stuck between horses and also failed to finish in the money. However, when outside and in the clear, he has never been beaten.
2013: Two-year-old season
California Chrome's first start as a two-year-old was in a maiden race at Hollywood Park in April 2013, where he placed second by a length. Three weeks later, he won a maiden race by 2 3⁄4 lengths. In both races, he was ridden by Alberto Delgado. About a month later, California Chrome was entered in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes. He was one of four horses assigned to carry 120 pounds (54 kg), the highest impost given by the handicapper for the race. Alberto Delgado was out with a broken ankle, so Corey Nakatani was his rider. The colt was second for the first three furlongs but finished fifth in a field of nine. He was given a six-week break and then moved to Del Mar racetrack for his next two races. Delgado returned as his jockey, and California Chrome scored his second career win in the Graduation Stakes, a race limited to California-bred horses, prevailing by 2 3⁄4 lengths. As in the previous race, he carried 120 pounds (54 kg) and ran 5 1⁄2 furlongs, but this time he wore blinkers and also ran on the medication Lasix for the first time in his career. Next was his first graded stakes race, the seven-furlong, Grade I Del Mar Futurity. Although he ran strongly, he got caught in traffic in a field of 11 horses, was accidentally hit in the face by another jockey's whip, and finished sixth. After that, California Chrome was given almost two months before he raced again, in the Golden State Juvenile Stakes on November 1 at Santa Anita Park. This race was on the undercard for the Breeders' Cup, and at 1 mile (1.6 km), was the longest race he had run. He was assigned the number 1 post position and thus had to wait for all the other horses to load. He became anxious during the wait, reared in the gate, was last out, struggled throughout the race, and finished sixth. It was the last time Alberto Delgado was the horse's jockey, but Sherman only stated publicly that California Chrome's poor performance occurred because he was still growing and learning how to be a racehorse. In the fall of 2013, Alberto's younger brother, Willie Delgado, an experienced rider and trainer whose career was in the doldrums, moved from Maryland to California and within a couple of months became the horse's morning exercise rider, even after Alberto was taken off the horse.
In December, California Chrome began wearing a new type of horseshoe. He began to develop low heels, and in late 2013, his farrier, Judd Fisher, found that a particular style of glued-on horseshoe with a rim pad that raised a horse's heels was suitable for fixing the problem. Aside from that issue, Sherman explained that the horse's hooves have generally been healthy. Fisher also liked the shoe's design because it incorporated a hard rubber pad that was very durable. Instead of gluing it on, he custom-drilled holes into the shoe so it could be nailed to the horse's feet in the manner of a traditional metal shoe. According to Fisher, nailing on the shoes raised the soles of the horse's feet a little bit farther off the ground. It may have been a contributing factor to California Chrome's subsequent series of wins.
The horse returned to Hollywood Park for his final race of 2013, the King Glorious Stakes on December 22. He had a lighter impost of 119 pounds (54 kg), a shorter distance of seven furlongs, and a new jockey, Victor Espinoza, who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby on War Emblem. California Chrome won the race by 6 1⁄4 lengths, becoming the final stakes winner at Hollywood Park Racetrack, which held its last races that day. Sherman was pleased with Espinoza's riding, and Espinoza was impressed in turn with California Chrome. Alan Sherman later said that it was after this race that he began to think that California Chrome could be a Kentucky Derby contender.
2014: Three-year-old season
California Chrome began 2014 with the California Cup Derby on January 25. Espinoza returned as his jockey. California Chrome was slow coming out of the gate but quickly moved up to third place, took the lead coming into the homestretch, and won by 5 1⁄2 lengths. Sherman noted that it was the second consecutive race where the horse pulled clear and won by a decisive margin, stating, "It's like the light bulb has gone on."
California Chrome's first graded stakes win was the March 8 Grade II San Felipe Stakes. Espinoza tried a different riding tactic and let the horse go to the lead right out of the gate. California Chrome led most of the way, and after Espinoza gave him one tap on the shoulder with the whip, the horse pulled away from the field at the top of the homestretch and won by 7 1⁄2 lengths. Alan Sherman said, "My jaw dropped", while Art Sherman joked, "I'm glad I'm training at Los Alamitos, because he looked like a 350 [yard] horse coming out of the gate"; a reference to Quarter Horse racing sprint distances. Espinoza remarked, "I wanted to let him enjoy his race," later adding, "I wanted to see if he [could] go wire to wire ... that was the day I found out how much he loves to run." The San Felipe was California Chrome's first win in a race open to all three-year-olds, not just California-breds, and earned him 50 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby system.
California Chrome's first Grade I win was the Santa Anita Derby on April 8. Prior to the race, his owners turned down a $6 million offer for a 51% controlling interest in the colt that would have mandated putting the horse with a different trainer. Coburn later explained why they turned it down: "This isn't about the money, this is about the dream." California Chrome raced to the front of the field by the quarter pole and went on to win the $1 million race by 5 1⁄4 lengths.
California Chrome's time of 1:47.52 earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 107, the fastest for any horse in the Road to the Kentucky Derby's final prep races of 2014. It was also the second fastest time in the history of the Santa Anita Derby; the only horses to run faster were Lucky Debonair, Sham, and Indian Charlie, who hold a three-way tie for the record at 1:47:00. The decisive win made him an early favorite to win the 2014 Kentucky Derby and raised speculation that he had the talent to win the Triple Crown. After the Santa Anita Derby win, Sherman began to describe the colt as "my Swaps". Of his growing popularity, Denise Martin commented, "He's not just our horse anymore; he's ...the people's horse."
Prior to 2014, only three California-bred horses had won the Kentucky Derby: Morvich in 1922, Swaps in 1955, and Decidedly in 1962. Besides Swaps, the only other horses to win both the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby were I'll Have Another, Sunday Silence, Winning Colors, Affirmed, and Majestic Prince. Steve Coburn predicted that the horse was going to win. "I'm not being cocky, just positive", he said.
California Chrome's previous four wins had a combined victory margin of 24 1⁄4 lengths. Rival trainer Bob Baffert compared California Chrome favorably to War Emblem.[d] Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who had no entries in the 2014 Derby, told a reporter that he intended to bet on the horse and commented, "He's looked like the real deal ... I like everything about him." On the other hand, Dallas Stewart, trainer of rival Commanding Curve, dismissed California Chrome's chances due to his pedigree and the supposed lack of competition in his prior races. Others doubted his ability because the colt had never raced outside California. In contrast to the critics, reports surfaced that the owners had turned down a new offer of $10 million.
The colt arrived at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 28, 2014, and was one of the last Derby contenders to arrive. He was flown in from California, his first time on a plane, and traveled quietly. Once the plane landed, however, his travel idiosyncrasy was discovered by the waiting press when he refused to be unloaded until he was turned around and backed down the ramp; Alan Sherman explained later that this was also his typical manner of egress from ground-based transportation. Fisher was flown in to give him a new set of shoes. Upon arrival at Churchill Downs, the horses entered in the Kentucky Derby each were given a special saddle cloth to wear while exercising on the track, identifying them as Derby contenders and including their name. The one given to California Chrome contained a typographical error, with California misspelled as "Califorina". He wore it the first day and then the track management obtained one with the correct spelling. Critics commented that bringing the horse in late and not giving him a full workout on the track was a mistake, but Sherman's strategy was backed by Lukas. California Chrome was strong and energetic even though he had to adjust to a three-hour time zone change. In the days leading up to the race, he galloped on the track, was walked in the saddling paddock, and became familiar with the starting gate. Willie Delgado later remarked that the horse did not particularly like the track, saying "he never actually felt comfortable on it."
California Chrome's connections drew post position five for the race. He was the morning line favorite at odds of 5–2. The press suggested that the number five spot, relatively close to the inside rail, could be a problem owing to the "speed horses" that would go to the front early in the race, surrounding him on both sides, combined with colt's past tendency to be slow out of the gate. Espinoza countered by pointing out that he won the 2002 Kentucky Derby on War Emblem from the same post position.
In the race, California Chrome had a clean start and could have taken the lead, but Espinoza kept him behind two speed horses and only moved him to the front at the final turn when other horses began to tire. In the homestretch, he opened up a lead of five lengths before Espinoza eased California Chrome the last 70 yards of the race, narrowing his winning margin to 1 3⁄4 lengths. Sherman later explained that Espinoza slowed the colt down at the finish was "saving something for the next one", a reference to the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. The winning time of 2:03.66 was relatively slow for a Kentucky Derby, but Sherman described Espinoza's ride as "picture perfect". This win was Espinoza's second Derby victory, and 77-year-old Sherman became the oldest trainer to ever win the race.[e]
In a post-race press interview, Sherman said he had visited Swaps' grave at the Kentucky Derby Museum prior to the Derby and prayed for success. Trainer Dale Romans, who had asserted that California Chrome had no chance to win, said, "I was very, very wrong ... We might have just seen a super horse and a super trainer. You don't fake your way to the winner's circle at the Kentucky Derby."
California Chrome shipped on May 12 to Baltimore to run in the 2014 Preakness Stakes. On the plane were the other two Derby competitors to enter the Preakness: Ride On Curlin and General a Rod. Once on the ground, their van had a police escort from the airport to Pimlico Race Course. When California Chrome arrived at Pimlico, the management at that track welcomed him with two saddlecloths for his workouts, one with the "Califorina" misspelling and the other with the correct spelling, because the misspelled cloth was starting to be viewed as a good luck token. Just as at Churchill Downs, the colt exercised on the Pimlico track but had no timed workouts. Delgado compared the long and narrow Pimlico oval favorably to the home track at Los Alamitos. Sherman did not like that the horse had to race again with only a two-week break, but was confident because California Chrome had gained back weight he had lost running the Derby, plus another 35 pounds (16 kg).
News stories prior to the Preakness discussed the relatively slow pace of the Derby and the low Beyer Speed Figure of 97 earned by California Chrome in his win, asserting that the new horses in the Preakness might be a stronger field than in the Derby. One trainer said, "California Chrome has to prove again he's the best 3-year-old." California Chrome was assigned the number three post position in a field of ten horses, and was the morning line odds-on favorite at 3–5. Followers noted that Secretariat had also run the 1973 Preakness Stakes from the number three post. The Thursday before the race, California Chrome was observed coughing four times after his morning gallop, prompting speculation about his health. He had a small blister in his throat, which he also had prior to the Kentucky Derby, both times treated with a glycerine throat wash. The intense press attention paid to the relatively minor issue was dismissively dubbed "throat-gate" by sportswriter Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times.
On race day, May 17, California Chrome made a clean start out of the gate, was close to the front through the backstretch, made his bid for the lead at the far turn, and was first by the top of the stretch. The second-place finisher was Ride on Curlin, who made a strong move late in the race to finish 1 1⁄2 lengths behind California Chrome. Both held off a challenge from Social Inclusion, who tired and finished third. General a Rod was fourth. The winning time was 1:54:84, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 105. Social Inclusion's owner, Ron Sanchez, said, "He's the real deal ... My horse came to challenge him, but he found another engine. He was gone." Espinoza's rides were described as "flawless", and the press noted the special affinity between the horse and jockey.
The press considered the Preakness to be the horse's strongest victory to date, as he handled a fast early pace, moved to the front sooner than Espinoza desired and fended off two challengers in the homestretch. Baffert, who had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), and War Emblem (2002), had run three different horses against California Chrome, and said, "I'm done chasing him," adding, "he's super the real deal." "None of his races have taxed him." In post-race interviews, Coburn stated that California Chrome had become "America's Horse". California Chrome became the only California-bred horse to date to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
The day after the Preakness, a new round of press excitement, dubbed "nasalgate", erupted when Sherman commented that Martin might not let California Chrome run in the Belmont Stakes if the horse was not allowed to wear a nasal strip as he had in his previous six races.[f] Nasal strips may reduce airway resistance, lower the risk of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH), and aid post-race recovery. They are not considered performance-enhancing. Sherman submitted a formal request for permission to use them, and the following day, the NYRA approved the use of nasal strips for all horses on New York tracks, thus resolving the matter.
California Chrome shipped to New York on May 20 in a semi-trailer horse van together with Ride On Curlin. They had a police escort through New York City from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Belmont Park. Barn space at Belmont Park was made available to them by New York trainer Jimmy Toner, in a location that could offer better security for the horse. The press reported that Art Sherman believed the misspelled saddle cloths at the Derby and Preakness were a good luck charm, and that he specifically asked Belmont Park for another misspelled cloth along with a properly spelled version.
The first week California Chrome spent at the Belmont track was generally uneventful, other than galloping by an opossum that wandered onto the track the morning of May 23. The horse paid little attention to it, but the press pounced on the story; the animal was labeled "Dumb-Ass Possum", and someone created a Twitter account for the creature. California Chrome galloped daily for up to 2 miles (3.2 km) and Delgado commented, "I can tell you he loves this track, and I don't see him (having) any problem getting a mile and a half." On May 31, Espinoza arrived to give the colt a short workout known as a "breeze". Horse and jockey were greeted by a large contingent of fans and press at about 6:30 a.m., and ran a "sharp" half-mile (0.80 km) officially clocked at 47.69 seconds. A clocker for the Daily Racing Form stated, "He's going to be tough to beat. I think we're going to have a Triple Crown winner."
Eleven horses entered the Belmont Stakes on June 7, and California Chrome drew post position 2, the same post position as Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont. Ride On Curlin and General a Rod also entered; they were the only other horses besides California Chrome to contest all three legs of the Triple Crown. Four entries had run in Kentucky Derby but skipped the Preakness, and there were four "New Shooters" who had not run in either of the previous Triple Crown races, including Tonalist and Matterhorn, who each wound up playing a major role in the race. Anticipating the possibility of a Triple Crown champion, several people connected to the last three Triple Crown winners announced plans to be at the Belmont, including 92-year-old Penny Chenery, owner of Secretariat; Patrice Wolfson, who co-owned Affirmed; and some of Seattle Slew's connections—trainer Billy Turner and co-owner Jim Hill. The jockeys of the three past winners, Steve Cauthen, Jean Cruguet, and Ron Turcotte, also announced they would attend. Cauthen, jockey of Affirmed, stated, "This horse has got a great chance of pulling it off," but added, "you never know, that's why they have to run the race."
On race day California Chrome did not break boldly. Espinoza later explained that something felt "off" and he held the horse back a bit instead of going to the lead. When asked to move to the front, the horse did not unleash his usual burst of speed. Immediately following the race, Espinoza said "He was just a little bit empty today". Tonalist won the race, and California Chrome finished fourth in a dead heat with Wicked Strong. Initial post-race analysts criticized Espinoza for not taking the horse to the front early on, but noticed that California Chrome had had some blood on his right front heel, and speculated that he had stepped on his own feet, or "grabbed a quarter" in equestrian parlance. After the race, review of photos taken at the start showed that the horse next to him, Matterhorn, moved too far to the left and stepped on California Chrome's heel as both horses broke from the gate. As a result, California Chrome had run the race with a "chunk" of tissue taken out of his right front heel and a small cut on his tendon. The tendon injury was superficial, but the heel injury may have been a factor in his loss. Sherman explained that he knew that something was not right when he saw the horse throw his head up in the homestretch, and speculated later that the sand and dirt of the racetrack caused pain in the open wound. The following day, Sherman assured the press that both injuries would heal.
Following the race, Coburn generated controversy when he said the current Triple Crown system allowed "the coward's way out" because fresh horses who had not run in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes could challenge horses who contested all three legs. Sherman downplayed the outburst, saying, "[Coburn] was at the heat of the moment ... Sometimes the emotions get in front of you." Two days later, Coburn apologized, saying he wanted to congratulate the owners of Tonalist and adding, "I wanted so much for [California Chrome] to win the Triple Crown for the people of America." Steve Haskin of Blood-Horse magazine summarized the race stating, "when I think back ... the one image that will last forever will be of an exhausted colt walking back through the tunnel with a bloodstained foot, his head down and breathing hard, and every vein protruding from his sweat-soaked body. He had given every ounce of himself, and with it all, still was beaten only 1 3⁄4 lengths."[g]
California Chrome returned to Los Alamitos, where Sherman's crew treated the wound for about 10 days. After that, they sent California Chrome to Harris Farms where he was turned out on pasture. By early July, his foot was fully healed, he had gained weight, and Sherman was pleased enough with his recovery that he brought the colt back to Los Alamitos to resume training on July 17, two weeks earlier than anticipated.
Remainder of 2014 season
California Chrome was the top-ranked three-year-old in the nation by the NTRA in its post-race poll of June 9, 2014, in spite of his Belmont loss, and was fifth-ranked among American horses of all ages. In the June 12 World's Best Racehorse Rankings, published by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, he was ranked fifth in the world, one point behind the only American-based horse rated higher, Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude, who was tied for third. On June 11, a concurrent resolution was introduced in the California State Assembly recognizing the "outstanding performance of California Chrome" and all of his connections including not only his owners and trainers, but also Willie Delgado and groom Raul Rodriguez. The resolution passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously on August 14, and the Martins and Coburns appeared on behalf of the horse. It was the first time that the California Legislature had honored a race horse
He was next entered in the September 20 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing. He was the morning line favorite, but his connections drew the inside number 1 post position. Kentucky Derby rivals Candy Boy, in the number 2 spot, and Tapiture in the 7 spot, also entered. Bayern, who had a poor performance in the Preakness Stakes, but later won the Haskell Invitational, drew the number 4 spot and was the second favorite. The race provided significant financial incentives to any horse entering who previously won a triple crown race or other selected Grade I races. Due to his two triple crown race wins, California Chrome's connections earned $200,000 simply for having him start in the race. In the race, the unpredictable Bayern won by 5 3⁄4 lengths, and California Chrome, trapped on the rail, first by a speed horse in the initial stages of the race, and again on the far turn by a challenger who faded in the stretch, was unable to gain momentum in the race, and finished sixth.
Fans and publicity
An enthusiastic fan base supporting California Chrome became visible about the time of the Santa Anita Derby, when someone invited the horse's supporters to join the owners in the winner's circle at the Santa Anita Derby and over 100 people crammed into the area, including one woman dressed entirely in metallic foil. Coburn told CNN of a supporter who had a jackass tattooed on his shoulder. An unofficial Twitter account for the horse, @CalChrome, was started by a 37-year-old fan from Florida, Shawn LaFata, that had over 12,000 followers by Belmont week, and LaFata believes the word "Chromies" was first used on that account eight nights before the Kentucky Derby. The New York Times noted the enthusiasm of the fans, who used the hashtag #Chromies on Twitter. The humble origins of the horse and the people around him played a role in his popularity, as did the horse's people-focused attitude. As Alan Sherman explained, "He's a ham, he loves the cameras"; behavior that prompted Willie Delgado to give him an additional nickname, "Vogue". Supporters appeared to be further motivated by the continuing doubts raised by racing experts about California Chrome's ability.
The horse had nationwide appeal, but California Chrome's core fan base was centered in the Central Valley of California; the Sacramento television market ranked sixth in the nation for television viewership on Preakness day, and third in the nation on Belmont day. Prior to the Belmont, country music singer–songwriter team Templeton Thompson and Sam Gay wrote a song titled "Bring it on Home, Chrome", which Thompson recorded. A rap video featuring a group of elementary school children singing about the horse was released on YouTube. Even after his Belmont loss, Harris Farms fielded many calls every day from fans wanting to visit the horse while he had a break from racing in June and July 2014. The press the horse received was viewed as giving a needed boost to the sport. Jockey and sports analyst Gary Stevens noted prior to the Belmont, "I haven't heard Thoroughbred horse racing mentioned on CNN for a long time, and it was right at the top of the hour ... He's brought us mainstream again for the first time in a lot of years." Post-Belmont press analysis contended that California Chrome was the most popular Thoroughbred in America since Zenyatta.
In contrast to his admirers, California Chrome's image was somewhat diminished by the criticism that followed Coburn's post-Belmont comments. Additional negative press ensued when Martin turned down an offer to bring California Chrome to parade in the paddock at Del Mar on the day of the Pacific Classic, partly because of the horse's training schedule but also because the track was unwilling to put up $50,000 to cover transportation, insurance and an appearance fee. Martin pointed out that he was simply seeking a fair deal, as the horse would help boost track attendance and profits if he visited. Some commentators, such as NPR's Frank Deford, had little patience with the horse's story exemplifying the American dream of success from a modest beginning. DeFord felt that the horse's victories would have little impact on the popularity of horse racing, which he viewed as "a sport that is struggling against time and culture" due to the prevalence of other types of gambling and the reduced impact of horses in the daily lives of most people.
Following the "nasalgate" story, fans began to appear wearing human nasal strips or purple band-aids across their noses. Working with the intellectual property attorney who had brokered deals for Smarty Jones, California Chrome's owners gained an endorsement deal with GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturer of the human Breathe Right nasal strips. On Belmont day, GlaxoSmithKline gave away 50,000 of the strips at Belmont Park. Santa Anita, which simulcast the race, ran its own promotion, giving fans at that track purple nasal strips with the word "Chrome" on the front. Prior to the 2014 Belmont Stakes, California Chrome's owners filed a patent application to trademark his name for use on athletic apparel. They hired two talent agencies to help with marketing and sponsorships. On June 2, the Skechers shoe company announced a sponsorship deal where the company's logo would appear on assorted items worn by the horse and his handlers, and the company would use California Chrome's image in its marketing. Skechers ran a half page ad in the Wall Street Journal at the end of June, congratulating the horse on his success.
|Apr 26, 2013||2||4 1⁄2 furlongs||Maiden Special Weight||Maiden||Hollywood Park||6.90||0:52:47||9||2||length1||Delgado, AlbertoAlberto Delgado||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|May 17, 2013||2||4 1⁄2 furlongs||Maiden Special Weight||Maiden||Hollywood Park||1.20||0:52:42||9||1||2 3⁄4 lengths||Delgado, AlbertoAlberto Delgado||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Jun 15, 2013||2||5 1⁄2 furlongs||Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes||Listed Stakes||Hollywood Park||5.10||NA||9||5||NA||Nakatani, CoreyCorey Nakatani||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Jul 31, 2013||2||5 1⁄2 furlongs||Graduation Stakes||Listed Stakes||Del Mar racetrack||6.20||1:03:48||7||1||2 3⁄4 lengths||Delgado, AlbertoAlberto Delgado||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Sep 4, 2013||2||furlongs7||Del Mar Futurity||I||Del Mar racetrack||5.70||NA||11||6||NA||Delgado, AlbertoAlberto Delgado||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Nov 1, 2013||2||furlongs8||Golden State Juvenile Stakes||Listed Stakes||Santa Anita Park||3.20||NA||9||6||NA||Delgado, AlbertoAlberto Delgado||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Dec 22, 2013||2||furlongs7||King Glorious Stakes||Listed Stakes||Hollywood Park||2.20||1:22:12||10||1||6 1⁄4 lengths||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Jan 25, 2014||3||8 1⁄2 furlongs||California Cup Derby||Listed Stakes||Santa Anita Park||2.50||1:43:22||10||1||5 1⁄2 lengths||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Mar 8, 2014||3||8 1⁄2 furlongs||San Felipe Stakes||II||Santa Anita Park||1.40||1:40:59||7||1||7 1⁄2 lengths||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Apr 5, 2014||3||furlongs9||Santa Anita Derby||I||Santa Anita Park||0.70||1:47:52||8||1||5 1⁄4 lengths||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|May 3, 2014||3||furlongs10||Kentucky Derby||I||Churchill Downs||2.50||2:03:66||19||1||1 3⁄4 lengths||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|May 17, 2014||3||9 1⁄2 furlongs||Preakness Stakes||I||Pimlico||0.50||1:54.84||10||1||1 1⁄2 lengths||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Jun 7, 2014||3||furlongs12||Belmont Stakes||I||Belmont Park||0.85||NA||11||4
|NA||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|Sep 20, 2014||3||furlongs9||Pennsylvania Derby||II||Parx Racing||0.90||NA||8||6||NA||Espinoza, VictorVictor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Martin & Coburn|||
|8 1⁄2||1 1⁄16||1,710|
|9 1⁄2||1 3⁄16||1,911|
California Chrome's sire, Lucky Pulpit, and his dam, Love the Chase, both had relatively undistinguished racing careers. Many of their ancestors were successful on the track, however, and some were well known for stamina over distance. Lucky Pulpit was sired by Pulpit, who is credited with 63 stakes winners and particularly known for his son Tapit. 1992 Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic winner A. P. Indy is the sire of Pulpit. The sire line of these stallions traces to Bold Ruler, considered one of the greatest North American sires of the 20th century, and ultimately to the Darley Arabian through Eclipse. A. P. Indy was by 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and is a grandson of Secretariat on his dam's side, bringing a second cross to Bold Ruler into the pedigree. Pulpit is a grandson of Mr. Prospector on his dam's side, a line believed to cross well with Seattle Slew's breeding. Pulpit's maternal granddam, Narrate, carries lines to Bold Ruler and to 1964 Kentucky Derby winner Northern Dancer. Lucky Pulpit's dam, Lucky Soph, is a half-sister to the dam of Unbridled's Song and also a granddaughter of Caro, who sired 1988 Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors. Princequillo, who was noted for his stamina, appears several times in Lucky Pulpit's pedigree.
Love the Chase comes from old and respected pedigree lines. Her sire, Not for Love, was by Mr. Prospector and out of a daughter of Northern Dancer. Northern Dancer appears again on the distaff side of Love the Chase's pedigree. Her granddam, Chase the Dream, was sired by the 1968 Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor. Vaguely Noble, winner of the 1968 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is one of Chase the Dream's grandsires. She traces to Princequillo and to the UK-bred Ribot, viewed by some as the greatest racehorse of his generation. Love the Chase has two crosses to the mare Numbered Account, who produced several Grade I stakes winners and was the American Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in 1971. Numbered Account was a daughter of Buckpasser, who earned five Eclipse Awards between 1965 and 1967, and was inducted to the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1970. The Buckpasser line has been considered another good bloodline to crossbreed with descendants of Seattle Slew. Numbered Account was also a granddaughter of Swaps, and traces to La Troienne and War Admiral on both sides of her pedigree. Love the Chase's tail-female line is one of the oldest in North America. Through a mare named Selima, foaled in 1745, who was by the Godolphin Arabian and imported to the Province of Maryland between 1750 and 1752, the line ultimately traces to Thoroughbred family 21, which began with the Moonah Barb Mare, who was imported from Barbary to England in utero about 1700.
California Chrome has relatively little inbreeding; he is 4 × 3 to Mr Prospector, meaning that this ancestor appears once in the third and once in the fourth generations of his pedigree. He is also 4 × 4 to Numbered Account and 4 × 5 to Northern Dancer.
Lucky Pulpit (US)
|A.P. Indy||Seattle Slew|
|Lucky Soph (US)
|Ride The Trails|
|Lucky Spell||Lucky Mel|
Love the Chase (US)
|Not For Love (US)
|Mr Prospector||Raise A Native|
|Dance Number||Northern Dancer|
|Chase It Down (US)
|Chase The Dream||Sir Ivor|
|La Belle Fleur (Family 21)|
- indicates inbreeding
- The shorter marking on the left front leg is technically a partial stocking, as the high white only extends up the back half of the leg.
- Prior to the beginning of the 2014 breeding season, Lucky Pulpit had a published stud fee of $2,500, considered quite low in the world of Thoroughbred horse breeding. After the success of California Chrome in 2014, Lucky Pulpit's stud fee was raised to $10,000.
- The cookies are an oat-based treat called Mrs. Pasture's horse cookies. The horse also likes carrots, and eats normal equine meals of hay and grain.
- Baffert trained War Emblem to win the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with Espinoza as jockey.
- Prior to Sherman, Charlie Whittingham held the record when at age 76 he trained Sunday Silence to win the 1989 Kentucky Derby.
- Prior to the 2012 Belmont Stakes, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) stewards had refused to allow I'll Have Another to wear one. The issue was of no actual impact in 2012 because I'll Have Another pulled out the day before the race due to injury.
- California Chrome and Wicked Strong actually finished 2 3⁄4 lengths behind the winner.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to California Chrome.|
- "Growing Up California Chrome", video of young horse
- Photo of post- Belmont hoof injury of California Chrome,and close-up
- Daily Racing Form photo of Matterhorn and California Chrome at start