California Chrome Sparks California Pride

California Chrome in the lead at the Preakness StakesI’m a fourth generation, pre-gold rush Californian and proud. California Chrome’s team inspires and gives us something fun to root for. The colt is going off as a 3-5 favorite at the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes tomorrow. A win will secure a place in history for the horse as the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years and one of only 12 ever.

No California-bred horse has ever won the Triple Crown. I remember the excitement around Secretariat and Affirmed but that was in the 70’s and they weren’t California horses.

The race goes off at 4 pm California time tomorrow. Get situated a bit before that. NBC will have live coverage. Golden Gate fields in Berkeley will open at 9am for a day long Belmont Stakes celebration. Yuba City has closed Pulmas Street and decked it out in green and purple. They’re having an outdoor viewing party in the 100 degree sunshine in celebration of local roots. If you’re a Californian who will be coast side tomorrow, you can watch via livestream from your cell phone.

Those that know thoroughbred horse racing say that at a mile and a half, the Belmont will be tough for California Chrome. The track is longer that of Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes. It’s grueling to run all three races which is why there are so few Triple Crown winners. Some of the top contenders tomorrow sat out the Preakness.

It’s good that they’re expecting nice weather at the Belmont. California Chrome grew up training in dry Southern California sunshine at the Santa Anita racetrack. I’ve been advised to watch what is happening at the one mile mark. Prior Triple Crown winners have all been ahead at that point.

This is the Year of the Horse, so It must be auspicious for California to this horse representing us. What’s more, California Chrome embodies the gritty kind of back-story that you’ve just got to love.

California Chrome’s owners, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, aren’t fancy horse people. They’ve called their venture into the thoroughbred horse business “DAP Racing” which stands for “Dumb Ass Partners.” California Chrome was born in Coalinga, California. He’s the progeny of a mare that cost DAP Racing $8,000 and they procured the stud for a $2,500 fee. He didn’t cost millions but his bloodlines are apparently pretty good. It seems Steve and Perry are plenty smart and they have a sense of humor.

The colt is trained by a father and son team, Alex and Alan Sherman. They have Bay Area roots as does the his jockey, Victor Espinoza. The horse is a pretty cool customer too. A couple of weeks ago, while training for the Belmont stakes when an opossum showed up on the track. About which the trainer commented:

“Coyotes have appeared at California Chrome’s home track in Las Alamitos, so the opossum wasn’t a big deal.

If you’re competing in a market where your competition has a better pedigree and more funding … take in the words of owner Perry Martin:

“The battle here is putting together the right team. We have the right team now. We have an old-school trainer. We went with old-school breeding. We have good jockey, who’s not just in the moment but also thinking 50 jumps ahead.”

Luck always plays a role in success but there’s nothing like smarts, grit and hard work to get the job done.


Photo Credit: Jay Baker, via Maryland GovPics – Flickr: 139th Preakness Stakes

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