California, here comes Chrome.
Following his epic pursuit of the Triple Crown, California Chrome returns to his home state on Sunday for some rest. He may have flopped Saturday in the 146th Belmont Stakes, but he’s still the only California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
“He’s leaving on a plane on Sunday morning,” said assistant trainer Alan Sherman, “then we’ll be right behind him Monday.”
Unlike several recent Kentucky Derby winners who rushed off to the breeding shed after their milestones, California Chrome is scheduled to stick around. He’ll return to his home base at Los Alamitos Race Course for a vacation and recuperation from a grueling campaign, according to trainer Art Sherman. Then, it will be back to work.
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“We’ll get ready for the Breeders’ Cup,” Art Sherman said before Saturday’s fourth-place finish in the Belmont. “That’s the goal after this.”
This year’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, America’s richest race, will be held Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. California Chrome already has won three stakes at Santa Anita, including the 2014 Santa Anita Derby.
“He’ll be at home (instead of traveling to an East Coast track for the rotating Breeders’ Cup),” Art Sherman said. “And he is a California horse.”
First, Chrome must recuperate from an injury to his right front hoof suffered in his loss to Tonalist, a New York-based colt who did not compete in the other two jewels of the Triple Crown.
California fans may see the popular chestnut gallop but not race at Los Alamitos, which will host its first thoroughbred meet in July. After the recent closure of Hollywood Park, the quarter-horse venue lengthened its oval to one mile to become part of the state’s thoroughbred circuit.
Alan Sherman, who has been on the road with Chrome for six weeks, will get a vacation, too.
“I’m going fishing,” said Alan, his father’s right-hand man. “I’m going to Alaska. I’ve already got my tickets.”
This trip provided enough memories to last a lifetime, he added.
“After we won the Derby, I cried for an hour,” Alan said. “This whole thing has just been awesome, a great ride. This is the sort of horse that doesn’t come around very often, if at all.”
California Chrome’s owners resisted offers of $6 million and $10 million to sell their star before the Derby. Industry speculation now pegs his stallion value at $15 million to $18 million. His pedigree lacks the blueblood influences most Kentucky breeders seek, but his talent and personality have made him a household name.
Many experts automatically discount California Chrome because he was born in California, not Kentucky. But another California-bred horse shows that a great horse – and potential sire – can come from anywhere. Two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, one of Kentucky’s top stallions, was bred and born at Harris Farms in Coalinga; that also is the birthplace of California Chrome.
The longer California Chrome races – and wins – the more valuable he’ll become, especially if he can add a Breeders’ Cup trophy to his collection.
Before Chrome’s Derby and Preakness victories, the plan was to continue racing as a 4-year-old, Art Sherman said.
“I hope he sticks around – I need him. Racing needs a horse like him,” Sherman said.
Added Alan Sherman: “He’ll definitely give California racing a boost. He’s a good boost for the whole industry. We need to get more people into this game.”
California Chrome definitely was the draw at Saturday’s Belmont. Perfect June weather and a chance to see a Triple Crown winner brought out an announced crowd of 102,199. Jammed 100 deep on the track apron, fans formed a dappled sea of purple and green to match DAP Racing’s stable colors.
DAP – Dumb Ass Partners – also inspired several fans to include donkey caricatures as part of their apparel. Co-owners and breeders of California Chrome, the partners are Perry and Denise Martin of Yuba City and Steve and Carolyn Coburn, were seated in the grandstand owners’ box closest to the finish line.
Before the races, Steve Coburn – wearing his signature cowboy hat – signed hundreds of autographs as fans on the track apron tossed T-shirts, hats, programs, posters and other souvenirs 10 feet up to their box.
“Everybody has been so gracious,” said Carolyn Coburn, wearing the same purple and green donkey-embellished hat she wore to the Kentucky Derby. “They’ve really gone out of their way for us.”
California Chrome’s connections have become among the most popular folks in racing. In the days leading up to the Belmont, they’ve been pulled every which way by the media, eager for interviews.
“Between TV and receptions, we were into Manhattan (from Long Island) twice a day,” Carolyn Coburn said.
Although their trip down the Triple Crown trail has been the adventure of a lifetime, they’re ready to go home, get back to work and return to normalcy. The Martins own Martin Testing Laboratories in Sacramento. Steve Coburn works as a press operator at a small factory in Carson Valley that makes magnetic strips for credit cards.
Said Steve Coburn, “I’m back at work on Tuesday.”