California Chrome Wins The Kentucky Derby (Above)
Two down and one to go for California Chrome in his bid for horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 36 years, but pulling that off will be easier said than run.
Showing no ill effects from two weeks rest since his Kentucky Derby win, California Chrome withstood a challenge down the stretch and won Saturday’s 139th running of the Preakness before a record crowd of 123,469 at Pimlico Race Course.
California Chrome finished a length and a half in front of Ride On Curlin, who ran seventh in the Derby.
At 5 feet 2½, California Chrome’s 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman had a hard time seeing the race. He had tears in his eyes after the finish.
“It was hard to get the view I usually have,” said Sherman, a former jockey, “Everyone was cheering and jumping up and down in front of me. When I looked up on the board, I saw him moving away. I felt really good.”
Next up in three weekends: the June 7 Belmont Stakes in New York.
While the Triple Crown has been elusive, winning the first two legs happens more regularly. California Chrome became the 13th horse to win the first two legs since Affirmed won the last Triple Crown in 1978. The previous 12 Derby-Preakness winners, most recently I’ll Have Another in 2012, all came up short in the Belmont. I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the Belmont due to a leg injury.
“New York, here we come,” said Sherman.
Added Sherman: “Now I’ve got three weeks. The mile and a half (in the Belmont), it’s quite a challenge. . . . (but it’s) up his alley, too, because he’s a very good horse.”
California Chrome now has won six in a row. In the first five of those victories, he had a month off between each race.
In Kentucky, California Chrome won in a time of 2:03.66 over the 1¼-mile race, slowest on a fast track in the Derby since Cannonade in 1974. Running a mile and 3/16th in the Preakness, California posted a time of 1:54 4/5 with jockey Victor Espinoza in the saddle, fastest in the Preakness since Curlin won in 2007.
“To me, this race was even a little tougher knowing that I’m coming back in a little shorter distance (timewise) than I usually ever run them,” said Sherman. ” … I was a little concerned about that, but he’s got a big heart this horse – big.”
Longshot Pablo Del Monte set the early pace, but California Chrome got off to a good start and hung in the third position into the backstretch. He went into the final turn with the lead and down the stretch he held off Ride On Curlin. Finishing third was Social Inclusion.
The order of finish: California Chrome, Ride On Curlin, Social Inclusion, General A Rod, Ring Weekend, Pablo Del Monte, Dynamic Impact, Kid Cruz, Bayern and Ria Antonia.
Espinoza came up short of the Triple Crown in 2002 when he won the Derby and Preakness on War Emblem, who stumbled at the start in the Belmont and finished eighth. He was asked about getting a second chance at a Triple Crown.
“In a million years I didn’t think I was going to have a second chance. I was very close once,” Espinoza said. ” But it will work out. Life goes on, and over a decade, here we go. I’m here again.”
Espinoza said he believes California Chrome has it in him to pass the “Test of Champions.”
“You never know until he runs but it seems like he’s going to be all right,” he said. “A little bit more time, he’s going to get back his energy. And you know what? We’ll get it done.”
Saturday, California Chrome gave him that second chance.
“It’s an awesome feeling to have a horse like California Chrome,” said Espinoza. “It was a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. It worked out well, and he’s an amazing horse.”
California Chrome is owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin. Coburn, from the Reno, Nev., area, works for a company that makes magnetic strips for credit cards and hotel keys. Martin and his wife own a materials testing firm in Sacramento.
The two small-time horse owners identify themselves as DAP Racing (Dumb Ass Partners). They had previously owned small shares in horses through a syndicate.
They bought an $8,000 mare named Love the Chase and bred her for a $2,000 stud fee with Lucky Pulpit. Their offspring, California Chrome, became the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962.
Prior to the Derby, Coburn said that he and Martin had turned down a $6 million offer to buy their horse. That decision is looking good.
California Chrome earned $1.4 million for winning the Derby and $900,000 for his Preakness win.
“Actually, he (Coburn) knew more than I did,” said Sherman. “Now the horse is worth $30 million.”
Was that the best business deal Coburn never made?
“Not only yes, but hell yes,” Coburn said from beneath the cowboy hat he also sported at the Derby – and will surely wear in New York.
California Chrome is the fifth California-bred to win the Preakness and the first since Snow Chief in 1986.
California Chrome’s name was inspired by his state of birth and his markings – white feet and a white blaze on his face – which are called “chrome” in horse jargon.
Since Affirmed swept the three races there have been 12 horses to win the first two legs but fail in the Belmont.
The dozen who missed since 1978: I’ll Have Another (2012); Big Brown (2008); Smarty Jones (2004); Funny Cide (2003); War Emblem (2002); Charismatic (1999); Real Quiet (1998); Silver Charm (1997); Sunday Silence (1989); Alysheba (1987); Pleasant Colony (1981) and Spectacular Bid (1979).
Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Smarty Jones all finished second at Belmont Park.
The 11 Triple Crown winners: Sir Barton (1919; Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935); War Admiral (1937); Whirlaway (1941); Count Fleet (1943); Asault (1946); Citation (1948); Secretariat (1973); Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).
Eddie Arcaro is the only jockey with two Triple Crowns (Whirlaway and Citation). Gallant Fox, the sire of Omaha, is the only Triple Crown winner to sire another.