We confess: We’re full-on “Chromies” – fans of California Chrome, who seeks horse racing immortality today at the Belmont Stakes.
The Central Valley-bred colt has the chance to become only the 12th Triple Crown winner ever, the first since 1978 and the first from California. He’s already made history – the first California horse to win the Kentucky Derby since 1962 and the first to win both the Derby and Preakness Stakes.
His rags-to-riches story has captured the imagination of fans far beyond the usual thoroughbred racing crowd. The buzz surrounding him is more like a human superstar. He made nasal strips newsworthy again; Breathe Right plans to hand out 50,000 in the stands, and another nasal strip maker signed up as a sponsor of the race. He has a shoe deal, for crying out loud, with Skechers. A bobblehead is on the way, of course.
California Chrome’s fame has rubbed off on the mere humans along for the ride. Victor Espinoza, who appeared Wednesday on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” would become the first Latin American-born jockey to win horse racing’s grandest prize. Trainer Art Sherman was the oldest to win the Derby.
But for California Chrome to become a true legend, he has to win today at Belmont Park in New York, a challenge that defeated 12 horses that had won the Derby and Preakness since 1978.
His chances look promising.
He’s added 50 pounds of muscle in the three weeks since the Preakness. His handlers say he looks comfortable on the Belmont track. He drew a favorable post position in the field of 11, No. 2, closer to the rail, so he can save ground in the 1 ½-mile race, the longest leg of the Triple Crown and the longest race he’s ever run. The oddsmakers made him the same early 3-5 favorite as before the Preakness.
California Chrome is on the cusp of being mentioned in the company of Secretariat and Seabiscuit, two of the most revered racehorses of all time. His destiny is only 2 ½ minutes away.