A Horse to Soothe the Soul

As I mentioned in my recap, the 2014 Kentucky Derby was about dreams and fate, an improbable hero from humble parentage, memories of Derbys long ago, and a favorite owned and trained by underdogs. In short, it was about life and its quirky twists and turns that lead us to places envisioned only in dreams and guided only by fate.

Thoroughbred racing was once dubbed The Sport of Kings. Well, there are no more kings and we are trying desperately to convince the world we are still a sport. There are only mere fragments left of past dynasties, as we witnessed in last year’s Derby. For the most part, the nobility that was once racing has morphed into a sport dominated by “dumb ass partners.” Working stiffs Steve Coburn and Perry Martin are the first to admit it by branding themselves as such.

The California breeding industry has for years been considered by the elitists as the other side of the tracks, where obscurely bred horses grow up, race, and die in relative anonymity. A colt by a $2,500 stallion, out of an $8,000 claiming mare, owned by a couple of burly guys from Topaz Lake, Nevada, and Yuba City, Calif. who actually get up at the crack of dawn and go to work, fits right into the landscape that is California breeding.

So, what happens when these two good ‘ol boys with their humble 3-year-old are offered $6 million for majority interest in their colt? They say “No?” Are you kidding? Then they are offered close to double that several weeks later and this time they say, “Hell, no?”

That escalates the pursuit of a dream to a new “dumb ass” level.

But there are those rare occasions in life when money becomes secondary, as insane as it may seem to others and even to ourselves as we make decisions that defy all rationality. We who love this sport and the beautiful creatures that inhabit it realize that horses are embedded in our soul from childhood, whether through equine heroes such as The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, and even TV stars Trigger, Silver, and Mister Ed.

We as kids hop aboard our rocking horse and continue to build up speed until we feel as if we are airborne. We no longer are sitting atop a piece of wood, but atop Secretariat or Seattle Slew. Imagine at that point if someone approached you and asked what you would pay to have that rocking horse come alive and be transformed into Big Red or Slew. And you owned him.

Coburn and Martin started off with a cheap rocking horse and saw it come to life, just as Coburn had envisioned in his dream. His golden steed with the white face and white feet, who they named California Chrome, began to get faster and faster, and they both found themselves back on that rocking horse, feeling that speed and that rush of adrenaline. It built to such a frantic pace they could no longer see dollar signs, only the Twin Spires beckoning in the distance, and even that elusive Triple Crown trophy that has become tarnished by years of sitting in storage.

Even those who have never had a rocking horse surely have ridden a flashy, blazed face horse on a carousel, its eyes with that wild look to them and mouth wide open. With all the horses to choose from, when you hopped aboard yours, didn’t you feel as if it were your horse, chosen just for you?

Coburn must have felt that at some point in his childhood, and he was able to relate to it now, as he talked about how special it was to see that brass ring on the merry-go-round turn to gold and Art Sherman reaching out and grabbing it.

He concluded by saying with the utmost gratitude, “God bless you, Art, for doing what you’ve done with this horse.”

Sometimes, even dreams need a little outside help, and Sherman was living his own dream, returning to Churchill Downs nearly 60 years after accompanying the great Swaps by train to capture the roses. Whether feeling that rush as an 18-year-old exercise rider or as the oldest trainer at age 77 to win the Derby, you never lose that child in you when it comes to horses. You always reach out for that brass ring, because at the other end could be a Swaps or a California Chrome.

Many frowned upon California Chrome’s humble lineage. But Coburn, especially, could see that it was not about names and race records. The blood of the Thoroughbred is infused with speed and stamina and courage, and a wild spirit not seen in any other breed. That blood goes back a number of generations, and on rare occasions, as is the case with California Chrome, it all flows into one special place, like tributaries into a mighty river. A closer look actually shows the blood of classic champions in America and Europe coursing through his veins.

A lot has been made of California Chrome’s slow time and closing fractions. Time is perhaps the most relative aspect of racing, because it is based on so many variables, such as the headwind in this year’s Derby. Time also has a way of fading into some deep corridor of our mind as a horse goes on to further accomplishments. Alysheba and his crop were considered slow and inferior after a 2:03 2/5 clocking in the Derby (only a fifth faster than California Chrome) and a final half in :51 2/5 (same as California Chrome). That is now considered one of the great 3-year-old crops of all time and you can learn more about Alysheba on his plaque in the Hall of Fame. Also up on that wall is Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, who came home his last half in the Derby in :51 3/5. Spectacular Bid, who holds the world record for 1 1/4 miles, ran his Derby in 2:02 4/5, with a final half in :50. Canonero II ran his Derby in 2:03 1/5 and everyone was convinced he was nothing more than a slow plodder. Two weeks later he ran the fastest Preakness in history.

The time of one race is not a true indicator of a horse’s ability. A horse is often measured by what is inside him. We have the ability to scan a horse’s heart to get an idea how it might assist performance in a physiological way and we can attempt to discover qualities about a horse such as lung capacity. But when dealing with an animal that has taken on mythical qualities over the centuries and has bonded with humans in an almost spiritual manner, one can easily resist scientific explanation and just believe that once in great while a horse like California Chrome can come along from seemingly humble beginnings to become the ragamuffin who would be king.

No one has placed any crowns on California Chrome’s head just yet, and it is still too early to know whether he will be sitting atop the throne. But for now, he has entered a place where few before him have ventured – into our imagination. The storybook is already being written. No one knows what the upcoming chapters will bring, but even now it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Romantics and poets have a way of creating their own endings and making people feel and envision the beauty they are trying to portray with their words.

And is there any poetry more soothing to the soul than the image of a Thoroughbred in action, whether it be made of flesh and bone or a piece of wood? Coburn and Martin may look like two hulking cowboys who rolled the dice on a dream, but in reality they are just like us, or at least who we used to be – kids on a rocking horse going faster and faster and enjoying the ride of their lives.


Leave a Comment:

calico cat

Lyrical! Thank you, Mr. Haskin.

Thank you also for setting the record straight for those obsessed with "time". The rest of us just loved watching a beautiful chestnut horse, with lots of chrome, win easily...for the fun of it.  

06 May 2014 6:25 PM

Terrific article!!  

06 May 2014 6:27 PM
Gary Sexton

Wonderful piece of writing, Steve!

06 May 2014 6:31 PM


Just beautiful and so true. Thanks so much for the wonderful thoughts and reminding me of running with one of those stick horses with a head and riding on the little electric horse in front of the grocery store for a nickle.  Horses have always been so special to me and they always will be.

California Chrome has brought me some very thrilling and happy moments and I hope he just keeps on truckin'.

06 May 2014 6:37 PM
Judy G ~ CA

Dear Lord! Well, Steve, you've managed to do it again... I'm blinking back tears. I can hardly type...

I've looked at Chromey's pedigree and it truly is remarkable! He may have been born of humble beginnings (sire and dam) but he is truly a gift from Heaven.

Thank you for writing this column. I'm so enjoying "Junior" and all the colorful connections who make this such a heartwarming story. May the racing gods grant us a Triple Crown this year - the Year of the Horse, indeed!

06 May 2014 6:42 PM
CarryBack 61

Steve, I've been a fan or yours for decades, and this particular piece has moved me like no others.  Thanks so much!

06 May 2014 6:44 PM

It's the dream that anyone in racing strives for, no matter what level. You reveal this more than anyone. See you at Belmont, along with this crew,hopefully.

06 May 2014 6:46 PM
Peggy in California

You have captured how I feel, but in words that I can not find.  Thank you very much for that.  This story will remain a part of my memory and be an inspiration to me for the rest of my life.  

06 May 2014 6:48 PM

Fantastic story, and I think really captures the emotion a lot of us have about California Chrome. I hope the ride continues for them all, safely and happily. (and all the naysayers and negative people to go away and let us enjoy this special horse!)

06 May 2014 6:48 PM

Steve, you are so right about racing. It's also the "little guys" who keep things going and fill the races. Steve and Perry need to organize a DAP chapter in Cali. Feeling love and respect for the connections, seeing a mirror to the dream.

06 May 2014 6:50 PM
Seabiscrateriat O' War

I simply adore this horse. He has a beautiful eye, and a feisty attitude. If a horse is to win the Triple Crown, let it be California Chrome for the Dumb Ass Partners.

06 May 2014 6:53 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve Haskin is to writing about horses

as Pavarotti was to singing arias.

None Better Bar None.

Thank you Steve, you have outdone yourself again on

both of the articles you wrote and posted yesterday and today.

06 May 2014 7:12 PM
Jean in Chicago

Thank you, Steve.  Another piece of poetry, like the horses themselves.

06 May 2014 7:16 PM


I've never actually seen or heard what the information (roadmap to the Derby) was that Perry Martin gave to Art Sherman.  Do you have that & can you relay it to us?

06 May 2014 7:38 PM

This is a great article.  As a child, I used to play with my Breyer horses and dream.  When I watched Secretariat win the Triple Crown, it was awe inspiring. And now this story of California Chrome and his connections brings back my childhood years.  Great info on the time comparisons too.  

06 May 2014 7:39 PM

Wow, I almost had tears in my eyes reading this.Thank you Steve. Articles like this touch the soul. I pray you have many many more years of writing in you. Please collect all the Derby, Preakness ,and Belmont stories and publish your next book! I for one will someday get to New York and find you at the track to have you sign it.What a beautiful bucket list I have.

06 May 2014 7:54 PM
Paula Higgins

Wow Steve, talk about poetry, this is it. Just beautiful writing. For those of us who view horse racing as more than just a bet, you described why we love it to perfection. California Chrome isn't the Kentucky bred masterpiece trained by the high profile, designer suited trainer with the huge stable. He is the product of two men with a dream and a trainer who loved the sport too much to leave it even at age 77. I really wonder if California Chrome would have flourished in other hands, the way he has with Art Sherman. I kind of doubt it. Just like John Shirreffs with Zenyatta, California Chrome had the right trainer and the right owners. They could have had sure money for 51% ownership and they turned it down. That speaks volumes. These are not rich men so when they turned it down, it really meant something. They were making a statement that some things can't be bought like the right to make decisions for your own horse and whether you stay with the trainer who helped fulfill your dream. They decided to stay with the man that brought them to the dance and I really respect that. I agree with Pedigree Ann, who stated on your other post that she believed that Art Sherman's old style training has made the difference. I completely agree. He remembers how the iron horses were trained and he brought that perspective and style of training to California Chrome. He was totally primed for the Derby and it wasn't going to matter that it was dirt or synthetics. This was just the "perfect storm" of horse, owners and trainer and I am hoping that the story ends up with the perfect ending.

06 May 2014 8:19 PM

Let a horse whisper in your ear and breathe on your heart. You will never regret it. Author Unknown

Steve, your words tell us what you heard and what you felt when that first horse whispered in your ear and breathed on your heart.

Beautiful words from you that glide across our hearts.

Thank you

06 May 2014 8:32 PM

You are a master of your craft Steve! Thank you for this beautiful piece of story telling!

06 May 2014 8:36 PM

I have honestly never seen a better written piece, Steve! Thank you for nearly making me, a Curlin lover, a CA Chrome lover! Yes, I love CA Chrome! Is this the year for a Triple Crown? I hope so! It's time!

06 May 2014 9:01 PM

Thank you Steve. Your absolute love for the game and its characters, be they equine or human is so sincere. Your readers anticipate, delight, and marvel in your ability to find that special piece of information and eloquently make it come to life. With your words you create soul, meaning; replete with reverence for the game, all the while utilizing a genuine mastery of the art of telling the story.  

Your caption below the last picture in the "Chrome Sweet Home" piece.

"Is that an aura beaming down on him?" is a classic!

Thanks again

06 May 2014 9:05 PM
sue hynes

Steve, as usual, your writing is a masterpiece that has captured the dream we (and all the connections) are all living through California Chrome. What a karmic connection it would be if in the Year of the Horse an "every'horse" c/would win the TC. This horse seems to have all that is genuine,along with all the special coincidences, including having Perfect Drift, a 3rd place finisher in the 2002 Derby, as his pony on KD Day. Amazing Dream, indeed!

06 May 2014 9:18 PM

You are amazingly observant, as ever, Steve.  This article cannot help but resonate with life-long racing fans…it literally put this reader into a pleasant haze of memories and anticipation of better things to come.  Thank you for this moment.

06 May 2014 9:21 PM

One of the most beautiful pieces I've read by Mr Haskin, and I've read many of them over the years. Thank you for all the beautiful words, and inspiration.

06 May 2014 9:27 PM

Steve, Once again your word magic expresses how many of who have lived and breathed horses from childhood feel about our racing heroes both human and equine. My this ride be a long one.

06 May 2014 9:41 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Unbelievably brilliant, masterfully woven story of really special people and a really special horse. I hope they continue to turn down the money and keep California Chrome in the family. The horse and connections all deserve all the glory and fun they can get. "Fury" was my favorite show as a kid.

06 May 2014 9:48 PM

masterful writing. time waits for no one. all that matters is getting to the finish line before the others.  I want to ride this horse as far as he will take us.

for all the children riding those stick horses carousel mounts and rocking horses this one's for you

06 May 2014 9:55 PM
Karen in Indiana

Steve - perfect, just perfect!

06 May 2014 9:56 PM
Pamela Booth

Good information on the time aspect. And beautiful writing. I would love to see another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime. Saw Seattle Slew in person at Longacres in 1977. Stunning!

06 May 2014 10:06 PM
Tiz Herself

Steve, as always you have a way with words. To me, there is nothing more poetic and beautiful than that of your words. You capture the spirit, you capture love, the beauty. Having read all of your books in writing (that I know of); Tales from the Triple Crown, Dr. Fager, Kelso, John Henry, Horse Racing's Holy Grail: The Epic Quest for the Kentucky Derby, and I am / have purchased Canonero II ... have I missed any? You inspire, you paint a vivid picture, to where a person feels as though they are actually there in person.

Whenever someone asks me how they can get to know racing better, I show them your blog, your articles and your books.

Life would be pretty dull if not for your words.

06 May 2014 10:19 PM
Tiz Herself

PS - is there anything more poetic to the soul than that of Steve Haskins' words?  Definitely not :-)

06 May 2014 10:20 PM
Tiz Herself

Was definitely the one who loved Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, National Velvet, Pit Pony, My Little Pony, the Grand Champions horses, Breyer horses, the Thoroughbred series, Pony Pals, My Friend Flicka / Thunderhead: Son of Flicka, The Horse and His Boy (my favorite of the C.S. Lewis books, hoping for a movie!), Phar Lap, Seabiscuit, all the Thoroughbred Legends books, any Thoroughbred biography books in print I can get my hands on (Am currently reading about Beef or Salmon, the winner of 13 grade one chases in his career), War Horse, Bucephalus, Buttermilk as well as Trigger, the Man from Snowy River, Diablo, Cisco, Flash, Goliath from Ladyhawke, The Horse Whisperer, Hidalgo, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Maximus from Tangled, Wildfire, Mr. Ed, The Saddle Club, Heartland (still a Heartland), Thowra, Horse Power Magazine, Blood Horse :-),  and my first real love in racing Skip Away.

I once had that seemingly unbreakable bond with a horse, a Tennessee Walker gelding named Tucker and I seriously doubt I will find that connection with another... unfortunately he did not belong to me and he was sold...

Steve, you said it best when you quoted on your December 2010 blog titled "I lied" when you wrote 'for many of us, horses are a way of life. It is not something that was forced upon us. We have chosen to allow these magnificent creatures to infiltrate our very being and touch our souls in a way that bonds us to them - yes, at rare times spiritually. The foundation between humans and horses was built centuries ago. Whether it is a racehorse, a riding horse, a show horse, or any horse that becomes a part of our life, there is always going to be that rare one who comes along and enters some hallowed sphere deep within us."

Life without horses......... I don't even want to consider that......

06 May 2014 10:37 PM

While everyone is crying I am very worried about Draynay,i hear he's homeless again.I thought it was incredible to refuse the money and go after the dream,that's a lot of money to refuse.

06 May 2014 10:41 PM

Just brilliant writing Mr. Haskins! I was 100% against this horse until reading about your observations of him drooling and playing with the bit in the A.M. That was the light bulb for me! In dressage training, this is exactly what you want! This is a TRUE sign of a happy and relaxed horse. And as I have read " junior" has done some dressage training. When a horse enters new surroundings, relatively, for the first time and displays this sort of behavior its a GREAT thing (at least from my end). When I was watching the post parade in front of the grandstand and I saw this magnificent,glowing chestnut parading before me, dry as a bone, and showing his typical "lipstick"(what we call drool on a very happy and relaxed dressage horse)The post parade makes most of my decisions as I look more for current temperament vs. past temperament. I knew he was a winner. Ill be the first to admit I was much higher on a lot of colts other than "junior" and was only planning on using him with commanding curve in a small palindrome exacta. I'm weird like that. I didn't get rich for my efforts.(300-1 for my $1 investment,ex-tri)But became a believer in 2:03.66....

But, the big question I had was where's the overheard replay? That's my favorite and I can not find it any where on web? Did the Nerf it this year?

06 May 2014 10:53 PM

Steve I can't possibly improve on the compliments others have so eloquently spoken; this piece has left me almost breathless. You captured my childhood love of horses so perfectly. You sir, are a master craftsman.

06 May 2014 11:09 PM

Poetry? I never heard one rhyme.......

06 May 2014 11:12 PM
Steel Dragon

Mr. Haskin is such an extraordinary writer that it overshadows the meticulous and painstaking research that clearly goes into the majority of his pieces. The man truly works hard at being the best and it shows.  

06 May 2014 11:16 PM

Love it when you wax poetic, Steve.  You put the cherry on top of your last post.  Thank you for expressing so eloquently what many of us feel about this horse.  He certainly is very special indeed.

06 May 2014 11:24 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

And they'll have fun, fun, fun til their daddy takes the T-Bird away.

06 May 2014 11:26 PM
Tiz Herself

I have 100% respect for Cal horses… Tiznow, Proud Tower Too, Thor’s Echo, Free House, Points offthebench, Bertrando, Brother Derek, Indian Charlie, Best Pal, Swaps, Snow Chief, Lava Man, Decidedly, Dancing in Silks, T.V. Lark, Nashoba;s Key, Native DIver, Bob Black Jack, California Flag, Moscow Burning, Budroyale, Joey Franco, Continental Red, Cavonnier, etc. etc.

06 May 2014 11:47 PM

Your best writing yet! Fantastic doesn't even describe the quality of your writing, Steve! It's gripping and nearly making me a Chrome lover instead of a Curlin lover! Nearly! Well written and beyond! Thanks!

06 May 2014 11:54 PM





07 May 2014 12:20 AM

Great piece but "Nevadans" is misspelled. It doesn't matter how fast or slow CC's time was....the others were still slower.  Sandy from Nevada

07 May 2014 12:34 AM

Another masterpiece, Steve.  You capture our love for the horse in a way only you can describe.  Beautiful.

"But when dealing with an animal that has taken on mythical qualities over the centuries and has bonded with humans in an almost spiritual manner..."

MonicaV--your comments in Steve's previous story touched me...the one about God and horses.  I believe that God is the source of all creation.  The horse has many qualities but the first activity it does after standing is run...and run it does.  The thoroughbred was bred to run fast and far...whether a pleasure horse or a well trained race horse, the running horse is doing what it was created to do.  When one comes along like California Chrome and fills us with awe, the horse is doing what it is created to do and begins to reflect the Creator whereupon we find it very difficult to put into words.  We know it, we see it,  we feel it, we are in awe of it but it becomes difficult to find words.  It may come out in tears, emotion or just silence.  We can only give thanks.

You have the words Steve, thanks.  

As a kid I rode "The American Racing Derby" at the now closed Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland.  I remember racing to my favorite one, a black with blazing eyes and a fire red tongue.  The ride was transported to Cedar Point in Sandusky and I now can ride it with my grandkids and watch them pick out their favorite winning steed.  

Thanks, Steve for reminding me of that which is hard to put into words.

07 May 2014 1:21 AM

Damnit all to hell Steve, you've done made me cry....again!

07 May 2014 1:40 AM

Horse racing history is full of horses that were not initially highly regarded but went on to do great things.  John Henry, Sea Biscuit, Sunday Silence, Zenyatta, immediatly come to mind.  As far as the DAP, there are certainly a lot more "dumber" moves than passing up 6 million like the guy/gal who put up to seven figures down on Candy Boy at post time dropping his odds from 16-1 to 9-1 and improving CC odds from 2-1 to 5-2.  

07 May 2014 1:41 AM
Charlotte Farmer

Steve ~ You do with words what great masters do with painting; you create, with the written word, beauty that transcends time.  The Immortals of racing are smiling on you for you have captured the very heart of what greatness is about, not the money that buys a bloodline but a heart that captures the imagination.  Well done my friend!

07 May 2014 1:47 AM

u 4got flicka!!!

07 May 2014 4:40 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


   I wanted to thank you for another fantastic year of the Derby Dozen. You had California Chrome number one for quite awhile which is a testament to your ability to see early on who is the most talented, but an even greater gift is your extraordinary ability to tell a beautifully woven story filled with insight, perspective, and wit, but that is not even your greatest gift to us. Your greatest gift to us is you. You are a very special human being who exhibits the highest class, compassion, insight, wit, respect and the ability to express all of that with your knowledge and historical perspective in an entertaining and enlightening way. You influence others to act in the same respectful and insightful and expressive way to make this a unique blog and internet experience. Thank you for all of your hard work too. Your analysis of every horse on the Derby Dozen week after week is extraordinary also. You are the greatest gift of the year, year after year.

07 May 2014 6:28 AM

Wow, you have a way of looking into a person's soul. I was one of those people on the carousal, dreaming of owning the greatest horse in the world. A dream which has now morphed into watching. What makes "Cal's" story so wonderful, is also the human element. Who would not want to be the subject of a blog such as this, by Steve Haskin?

07 May 2014 7:48 AM

A magnificent piece that is truly deserving of a Pulitzer type award. Very well written and moving.

07 May 2014 8:09 AM
Linda Stephan

Thanks, Steve - I had tears in my eyes, transported back to the teenage girl who idolized Kelso and pretended it was him I was on while galloping my anglo-arab hunter over the fields asking for more and more speed!

07 May 2014 8:16 AM
Allan Reed

Thank you, Mr. Haskin. I've been a horse racing fan since 1957, and only regretted never having seen the great Swaps run in person, but I learned everything I could about him and he's been my all-time favorite race horse. For a few years we even had a race horse from Harris Farms and you've written about some of the same folks who've taken such good care of California Chrome and who worked with our horse. I've waited nearly 60 years for California Chrome to come along. The Swaps in his pedigree, the links to Swaps with Art Sherman, and the wonderful story of his owners that you have captured so well in your writing help explain the appeal of this year's Kentucky Derby champion. You saw that early in your Derby Dozen listing when you realized what California Chrome is all about. In 1955, Swaps did not got to the Preakness and Belmont which his arch-rival Nashua won. Instead, he went back to California and defeated the older Determine, the previous year's Kentucky Derby winner, in world-record time, and won other Hollywood Park stakes. Sorry there's no "Nashua" around, but I believe California Chrome will finish his ancestor's work in this year's Triple Crown. Please keep writing so well about this wonderful horse!

07 May 2014 8:20 AM

STEVE; well said, time is relative,

You brought to my memory a filly owned by a couple of my friends in Puerto Rico, one of them was Mr Frisky's owner José Fernández, the filly's name, Lillian Girl, she would always prevailed by a neck, time didn't matter, 1400m 1;26, 1;28 1;30 but she will always got the job done. Congratulations and thanks for your excellent writings.

Do you have more coming about the remainder triple crown races, please say yes.

07 May 2014 8:27 AM


07 May 2014 9:26 AM
Needler in Virginia

Well, hooray, Steve! You've done it again, and I wonder how you constantly find a kind way to refute the nay-sayers who seem to rain on the parade of every single horseplayer's blown exacta. "The crop is crummy", "the time was lousy", "don't get excited 'cause he's only a Cal-bred"......all this bunk has appeared on the post Derby blogs. All those who doubted CC SHOULD be eating a double portion of crow right now but would much rather find a reason as to why they didn't hear what you've been saying for a looooooong time. So HUGE thanks for debunking with kindness, and with far less rancor than many of us here can manage. I, for one, have been almost spooked by how good this horse seems; we've been down this road before so I'm not gonna jinx him, but WOW! does he give me goosebumps. What I don't get is how come others don't get goosebumps, too?? But then I remember the Zenyatta vs Rachel junk and remember why some won't ever get it. Apparently some folks can only be a fan of one horse at a time...........and apparently, their horse lost last Saturday.

ME?? I'm havin' a ball with CC, Mr Sherman, the DAP, the perfect Espinosa ride, the roses and all the rest of what seems to be a perfect enchilada.

Thanks, Steve, and keep on keeping on.

Cheers and safe trips.

07 May 2014 9:31 AM

Steve, thanks for reminding me what an "old timer" told me years ago, "time is only important when your in jail" Good horses only run as fast as they need to to win the race.

07 May 2014 9:39 AM

Great article - I absolutely loved it.  As for California Chrome, it was evident to me that his past performances were "dominating", and nonsense when others claimed he hadn't beaten anyone. I too wrote "he's in a class of his own", and his Derby performance should have removed all doubt. What amazes me is that of the 15 "experts" whose Derby selections were listed in my local newspaper, only 5 picked California Chrome! I'm happy for people like MonicaV who saw all the good in this horse, and never let the pessimists crush her spirit.                

07 May 2014 9:54 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you all so much for your kind and heartfelt words. Thaye are greatly appreciated. And, again, thank you for your contributions all year. It's been a fun ride.

07 May 2014 9:59 AM
Steve Haskin

Sandra, I'm only going by how the dictionary spells it.

07 May 2014 10:01 AM
Smoking Baby

Steve. I'd say this is your best writing yet but I'm still partial to your coverage of Tiznow's New York (second) Breeder's Cup Classic win.  To me that was not only your best work but the best race writing from anyone...ever...bar none.  This was so good it had me wavering on that opinion though.  It's right up there with your best and THAT is saying something.

A humble THANK YOU from Smoking Baby.  You da man.

07 May 2014 10:09 AM
CaroleJ inMN

OMG, Steve, that was just plain FUN to read. Extraordinarily right on!!!  

07 May 2014 11:22 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Smoking Baby. I guess those Cal-breds foaled at Harris Farms bring out the best in me. lol

07 May 2014 12:05 PM

I don't know where this chestnut rocket is going, but I'm happy to be along for the ride.

It still strikes me as funny that people consider his ancestry to be so dull.  As Steve observes, you don't have to go back very far to find some of the bluest blood.  It's true too, as others have observed, that any thoroughbred's pedigree is blue if you go back far enough, but in CC's case, you don't have to go far to find A.P. Indy, Mr. Prospector, Numbered Account and Cozzene.  Funny how things skip generations……or even matings - remember Secretariat had a full sister named "The Bride" who, as somebody said at the time, "couldn't outrun a fat man downhill", but who produced some very good foals.

It's also funny that the media picked up on this "he's just a California horse" thing.  I'm not old enough to have seen Swaps, but I certainly learned from horses like Majestic Prince (Derby, 1969), Affirmed (TC, 1978), and Winning Colors (Derby, 1988), among others, that Santa Anita Derby winners need to be considered seriously when they moved east, no matter who bred them or where else they raced!

07 May 2014 12:14 PM
Sandy in Lexington

You never cease to amaze me, Steve!  Awesome article.  I want this storybook to continue with a crown at the end....

07 May 2014 12:32 PM
lawrence vaccarelli

mr. Haskin, you are a treasure

07 May 2014 12:36 PM
Paula Higgins

KY Vet really? Most poetry does not rhyme unless you are referring to nursery rhymes. As I said to Mr. Beyer, once again the skunk at the garden party.

07 May 2014 12:42 PM
Smoking Baby

Steve.  LOL.  Too cool.  I kid you not, I've read that Tiznow story aloud to a great many people (as I said it's my favorite)and I can never get through it without my voice cracking.  Good stuff sir.

07 May 2014 12:48 PM

Terrific post, I couldn't have said it better. I will keep my hopes and dreams for this horse contained, for fear I will jinx him or find myself feeling profoundly disappointed down the road. However, if it's to be done this year, California Chrome has the stuff to do it.

07 May 2014 1:01 PM
Native Dancer

Steve, I join the chorus of horse lovers lauding your greatness as an authentic ambassador of the thoroughbred world.

Your writings are permanent and indelible reminders that horse racing is a journey of hope. We all in our deep conscious are seeking for the ultimate race horse, the one epitomizing every human hero in history… and, then,  live a better life by just remembering…!

We are always fascinated by the prospects of an underdog raising to stardom as this bestows any one to fulfill his dreams…. And California Chrome is a living testament to that.

It all begins with searching in that fountain of fortune called pedigrees … no one knows the secret to “create” a fabulous horse but by just playing the role of a creator and mixing the horse families as sparklings of faith one earns the right to dream, to fantasize, to imagine … to seek the ideal … to earn the right of belonging to the most magical world.

Steve, Whoever has the opportunity to assimilate the real spirit of your work could understand that a bet is not a bet, it is a way of saying I support this sport … this ticket is a conduit to nourish the greatest human/horse stories … which, by the way, almost always involve great people.

Steve, we cannot Thank you enough for all your energy, inspirational wisdom and the positive vibe you infuse in all your followers…!

Please, keep your "wheel of inspiration” spinning!

07 May 2014 1:34 PM

I checked out The Black Stallion 19 times in a row from my elementary school library. Everything you wrote here, Mr. Haskin, spoke to that long-ago child still inside me and so many others who love this sport and the horses who make it magic. I try not to fall in love and start thinkings 'here's the next Triple Crown winner', but it's happened again with California Chrome. I'm in love. I sure hope he does it, but whatever happens, I know you'll chronicle his journey in an unforgettable manner. Thank you!

07 May 2014 2:30 PM
Melissa P

I am in awe - both of this wonderful piece of poetic prose, and of the entire California Chrome story. At a time when racing desperately needs heroes, the California Chrome team of "dumbasses" are tailor-made.

07 May 2014 2:31 PM

Thanks for such a thorough account of California Chrome's connections and their experiences with him. I hope that you win an Eclipse Award for these two fabulous articles about Team Chrome. And I certainly hope that trainers will learn from what Art Sherman has done in providing an excellent foundation for this colt. It's absolutely absurd to have horses running in the Derby with a 20 horse field with very little race experience.                                           Although California Chrome's dam and sire seem to be modestly bred; they come the crème de la crème of racing royalty. Love the Chase's pedigree lists racing royalty such as Princess Ribot, Buckpasser, Northern Dancer, and Swaps (who is on both sides of her family). And of course, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Princequillo are Lucky Pulpit's descendents.

His dam, Love the Chase, had a breathing issue which was correctable but wasn't discovered until after she was retired from racing. She had an entrapped epiglottis which didn't allow her to get enough air when running. She became very anxious about running due to this.

Chrome's sire, Lucky Pulpit, had had a viral respiratory infection when effected his breathing. He was unable to race effectively due to this.

( Incidentally, Mucho Macho Man had the same problem, which was worsened by his having a secondary bacterial infection. However, he was given hyperbaric treatments at Fair Hill Equine Center and Rehab. And he was given extensive rehab time at Fair Hill.)

What a wonderful story. I think that the Sherman barns will be much busier next year, much like Kathy Ritvo's has been. She has other owners' horses now.

However, what about the wonderful job Mr. Coburn did of researching Love the Chase's pedigree beyond the 5 generations.

What a wonderful year for a Triple Crown run.

07 May 2014 2:35 PM

Thanks for making me sniffle at my desk two days in a row.  Thanks for two lovely bits of writing.  Thanks for putting up with this sometimes-boisterous crowd of readers and for another excellent Derby Dozen season.

You were the first person I thought of as California Chrome crossed the finish line last Saturday.  You knew months ago he could be the one.  So far there isn't a thing not to love about this story, and I deeply admire the DAP for turning down wealth in favor of a horse.  Seems as though that sort of thing just doesn't happen anymore, and it warms my soul.

07 May 2014 2:42 PM

Loved the article, thanks Steve.  I'm a California Chrome fan and I hope he continues to wow us!  I'm rooting for Wildcat Red to run another great race after his disastrous derby, and can hardly wait to see Commanding Curve run again too.  It'll be an exciting year.  I'm cheering for the top horses of "working stiffs" and small barn trainers!

07 May 2014 3:12 PM
Old Old Cat

The master has spoken.  Thank you.

07 May 2014 3:20 PM

My first thought was OMG I can't believe Steve wrote that!  Your words were a magnificent way to revisit my youthful memories and bring them back to life.  Thank you so much.  I am thrilled for Junior's connections.

07 May 2014 3:59 PM

I do not have much to add to what others have already said here.  As I stated on Eric Mitchell's post the other day, It is refreshing to see a small, honest outfit come out on top.  Add to that Victor's charitable decision, something that has been done quietly, and his obvious love and appreciation for CC and you can't find any tarnish on that shiny trophy.

Cal Chrome doesn't need to win the Triple Crown to hold a special spot on my all-time favorites list.  I've enjoyed this ride so much because there hasn't been a reason not to!


Looking back at how the Derby was run, I think CC may have more left in the tank than most of the recent Derby winners.  A moderate pace, a perfect trip and an easy finish means less wear-and-tear than usually imparted on a Derby winner.

I see a Triple Crown within this horse's reach....but again, if he falters along the way, he will lose no shine in my eyes.

07 May 2014 4:33 PM


Thank you so much for the compliment.  I am a spiritual person and brought up as a church goer and still am.  Life is full of ups and downs and as long as we have God in our lives, we'll be okay.

Horses and dogs are two of the greatest gift God gave us.  Horses have been so important to humans in so many ways.  They helped us build this country and every country in the earlier times.  Horses were always extremely important to every civilization for their strength and stamina and helping to build what we have today.  They have also been a great source of pleasure for centuries in the "sport of kings" when it was the sport of kings.  They were our main source of transportation until the beginning of the 20th century.  Where would we have been without them?

I have loved horses since I was a little girl.  Every year, my father would ask me what I wanted for my birthday and I always said "a horse" and every year he would reply " we aren't zoned for horses".  I knew he would say that but I would ask anyway because maybe he would be willing to live in the country!  Well, that didn't happen and as I got older, of course I stopped asking.  Shortly before my father died, we spoke about the birthday wish for a horse and I told him I never bought that story!  He chuckled over that.

I started going to Santa Anita with my grandfather and grandmother who were pretty good horseplayers and had a ball with with them.  In those days, CBS aired a race every saturday during racing season.  It didn't used to be year round then and I would watch every week and when the triple crown races were run, I was in front of the TV.  I love thoroughbreds, I love they way they look and the way they run.  It's a lifetime love affair for me. I have gone to visit many of the greats in Kentucky and it was like meeting a big movie star for me.  I'm thinking of going Los Al to meet Chrome when he goes back.  What a thrill.  I still want to go meet Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta too.  I love horses and they have given me thrills for a lifetime.  Chrome has won my heart and I will love him for the rest of my life along with the others.  I have been so happy since the SA derby because I knew this horse would win and it was a real picker upper.  Wow!  I had some people over for the Derby and my nephew was there and he was on his cell with a friend right when Chrome was coming down the stretch and I was screaming and I heard my nephew say "This is my aunt's Wrestlemainia" and it is!!!!

God has blessed us in so many ways and to me these magical creatures are up at the top of the list.  God bless them all and keep them safe and sound.  On to Pimlico and another big thrill.

07 May 2014 7:10 PM

Steve, you have encapsulated the essence that drives racing - Romanticism. You can have all the black type etc you like, going back generation after generation, but without the heart to run you have a slow horse. Mind you, everything helps :)

If racing was merely a mathematical calculation, the best pedigree/confirmation, 'veterinary advice,' or having the most accomplished trainer then the sport would implode rather quickly. Centuries of history has taught the many that 'you never really know... and that is what makes racing exciting, it's not predictable.  

07 May 2014 7:13 PM
Old Timer

Another great story, Steve. I was fascinated by your statistics on the times. I did not recall the Slew's exact times, but I do remember that all three of his classic races were rather slow times relative to historical records. Still, he won the Triple Crown! While I keep hearing that CC's pedigree is not a distance pedigree, he has a Belmont winner, A. P. Indy, in there and other stamina influences. I hope that the dream continues.  

07 May 2014 7:40 PM
Back Home in LA

Maybe a picture can paint a thousand words, but sometimes a thousand words can paint a childhood memory, a life spent in awe of the horse, a yearning of the heart that only those who were born with such a trait can truly relate. Thank you for rekindling those memories with your words and your heart. You have that magical gift that sweeps us away for an all too brief moment in time, and gently let us fall back to earth with your final period.

After I raced my rocking horse till the springs gave out, I mounted a stick horse on my bicycle and called him Man O' War. I dreamed, lived and breathed horses. I came out of the womb that way.

Hold fast to your dreams, they do sometimes come true in ways that even the dreamer could never have imagined. So here is a toast to the dream team, the California Chrome team, may all your dreams come true. And may this truly be the Year of the Horse and may his chrome shine on in history.

07 May 2014 7:47 PM

Wow...what a race...WHAT A HORSE! California Chrome was spectacular, but also impressive was Commanding Curve. I don't think Chrome or Espinoza saw him coming, or he wouldn't have eased back on the throttle. But...Chrome was relaxed and not even breathing hard while Curve had run lights out. If I owned Commanding Curve, I'd skip the Preakness, give him a well-deserved rest, and get him to the Belmont healthy. That might be his race.

New shooters in the Preakness will be competitive speedballs. I'm anxious to see what Kid Cruz will do; it's home territory for him.

Aside from the fantasy and magic surrounding California Chrome and his race, he did something even more spectacular at my home. My sons were never really into horse racing, but my daughter always watched the Triple Crown with me, and we rooted for our favorites. And then we saw the fateful Preakness as Barbaro went down in 2006. Couple that with our favorite's (Eight Bells) break-down in 2008. My daughter never watched another race. She was totally opposed to horse-racing, and would block her ears and go, "Lalalalala I don't want to hear you!" whenever I tried to tell her about a horse. (And she's not 5 but in her 40's.) I've posted a lot about Chrome on my face book page, but she won't acknowledge it.

Imagine my shock (and pleasant surprise) when she called me the day after the Derby. She wanted to know which horses to bet in the Preakness and the Belmont. My jaw dropped. The same girl who claimed the races were cruel and all fixed is now ready to put her hard earned money down on the nose of a potential winner.

It took California Chrome to do that, and I sincerely thank him...that is a miracle!

I told my daughter that I'd have a better grip on the best bets by May 14th. She can't wait.

And thank you for such impressive reporting, Steve. You remain a poet, and still bring tears to my eyes when you tell the story from your heart.

The story of California Chrome and his connections is a wonderful symphony, and I eagerly await the next movement.

07 May 2014 7:49 PM

it was sarcasm................good job mr. H!

07 May 2014 8:13 PM

I give haskin credit for figuring out half the reason for the slow beyer/time........It indeed, was the wind. Wind conditions attributed in 2 ways........2 long runs into it in the stretch, wind dries out the track quick, causing it to be "cuppy"..........was laughing nobody mentioned it........so i give the "h" man credit........

07 May 2014 8:20 PM

Beautifully said, Steve.  Your words are almost as perfect as the horse.  You have expressed the emotions we all feel about horses but can't verbalize ourselves. Thank you for all your words this spring.  You make the derby trail more fun for me with each derby dozen.

07 May 2014 8:41 PM
Steve Haskin

Back Home in LA, Wow! You blew me away with your beautiful words. Thank you for expressing yourself with such poetry. And, once again, thanks to everyone for expressing your feelings.

07 May 2014 9:28 PM


This is filled with heart and emotion .  What else can we say?  An enormous insight to  what we miss In racing  and what we hunger for.  It is not the fractions , it is the need to fill a void .  It is so necessary to keep hopes up with this  courageous  team  as they lead us to  tighter turns on  a different track testing us to check our devotion and trust in the blazed  copper "rocking horse" by the name of "California Chrome".  In such a technically trended world  it is comforting  to know that

07 May 2014 10:59 PM
Scott's Rail

Probably getting to the party too late.  But I was there, in the back seat, for the ride.  Steve, Thank You...  I tried to get off CC, couldn't.  Just had trouble with the other 10-12, I "Narrowed" down for my Tri's. No matter what happens, henceforth...California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby.

08 May 2014 1:14 AM

Mr. Haskin, I really enjoyed reading your article. I could relate to so much of what you expressed. As a child, I didn't need a stick horse or carousel. I pretended to be both horse and rider. I didn't run so much as I galloped here, there and everywhere. What a strange sight I must have been! I am also hopeful for California Chrome. There is something magical about him; either that, or we're projecting our dreams and aspirations onto him in the hope that something Truly Great will happen. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you as we draw closer to The Preakness.

08 May 2014 6:37 AM

Thanks Steve!  This brought tears to my ears and spoke to my heart! Bring home the dream, California Chrome!

08 May 2014 7:34 AM

Beautifully written Steve. All I can add is the Winston Churchill quote "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man"

08 May 2014 8:54 AM


08 May 2014 10:34 AM
Mike Relva

Charlotte Farmer

Ms. Farmer,I'm a friend of Diana's. Few years back met her through a horse rescue farm in Tucson. Wanted to express my sincere thanks regarding the extraordinary effort on your part with Noor. Visited Old Friends few weeks back while in Kentucky.Thanks again.

08 May 2014 11:18 AM

Nuthin' more to say except I, too, thank you Steve for your comments and the obvious love that shines through for the sport and, more importantly, for the horses themselves.

For MonicaV, I, too, am a screaming aunt (and honorary zia) and I am proud that the kidlets (now, adults) know about the Derby and horseracing. In fact, when I told my god-daughter that she had to PVR the Derby for me during her child's second birthday party and I asked her, jokingly, why she had the nerve to give birth on that weekend two years ago, she replied: "I did it on purpose so that you would have someone new to bother about horseracing"!

Congrats, Slew for sticking it out with your daughter.

For all of us who loved the horses growing up and spent Saturday afternoons glued to the TV while everyone around tried to figure out why, this is why.

08 May 2014 4:41 PM

Great, Super article Steve and so very true...  

Hope that you took pictures on your visits to farms the day before the Derby as you were telling Steve Byk this morning... and that you took lots of pictures that you can share with us!

08 May 2014 5:04 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Excellent article about the Preakness today from you Steve, "Will speed threaten Chrome in the Preakness." I think Ride On Curlin, Pablo, and Social Inclusion all have a shot for the win. I think Chrome will have to perform even better than he did in The Derby to win. He's capable of course but has his work cut out for him. Art is a spring chicken compared to Manny. To win a Triple Crown race at 85 would just be phenomenal. Ride On Curlin should get a much better ride and I think he is an improving horse. I love Calvin but he lost a lot of ground zigzagging. He needs to change tactics if he is going to win another Derby. He zigged early making a beeline for the rail from an outside post then zagged back out with another beeline later when he was boxed in on the rail. Calvin might end up with a new nickname - Ziggy Stardust instead of Borail after that ride. I'm going to be a bad guy because my heart is still with Social Inclusion and that is who I'll be rooting for. I also have a fondness for Ride On Curlin who will be my second rooting interest but it will still be fine with me and exciting for a Triple Crown attempt if Cal Chrome wins. I'm more excited about the Preakness than The Derby this year. I think the Preakness is going to be a great race.

08 May 2014 5:12 PM

Steve, you write faster than I can read.  I find it amazing that you can turn-out one gem after another in such short order, without missing a beat.  Everything you wrote about this year's Derby has been beyond eloquent.  This particular article I can only describe as being ethereal.  It speaks to us where we live.  There are still kings, Steve Haskin, and as long as there are writers like you around (although you are a one-off), racing will endure.  Thank you for keeping the fires of our passion stoked.  What you say about racing and how you say it is everything good which we love about this sport.  You are treasured.

08 May 2014 5:15 PM
Steve Haskin

I am overwhelmed by all the comments on here. Thank you all again.

Nobledancer, your words really moved me and I thank you for that.

08 May 2014 5:49 PM
Steve Haskin

Tanzab, I got some great shots of Tapit, and also of Afleet Alex, Blame, To Honor and Serve, and Tapizar. It was a wonderful day and a great respite from all the hoopla at Churchill. I'm trying to figure out how to present them -- separate stories or one photo essay.

08 May 2014 5:51 PM

Steve (and guests) ~ Sorry about my incomplete post (5/07/14 10:59pm) but I was abruptly thrown off by this "technical" and troubled trend and just now able to complete my post to which I will add:

that in such a technical trended world it is a comfort to know that a "rocking horse" can take us beyond our dreams.  With all that is ahead for "The Chrome" we will be riding with him on the "Carousel".  Thank you California Chrome

and Thank you ~ Steve Haskin for a magical ride.

and everyone here too!

08 May 2014 9:01 PM

Steve Haskin : Would it be okay if I make a copy of Samraat / Wildcat Red's pictures from the previous blog ?  I want to use it as my desktop background.

09 May 2014 1:12 AM

Once again Steve, you have written a truly BEAUTIFUL piece about our beloved sport!  As you referenced in this article about horseracing once being the sport of Kings but maybe not so much anymore all your readers here salute YOU as the KING of horseracing writing. Bravo, once again Sir Steve!!!

09 May 2014 11:05 AM
Victor 'n Southern California

Terrific article. The buzz here living near CC's local tracks is alive and real. If there was ever a colt that i would REALLY love to see win the Triple Crown it would be this wonderful chestnut!    

09 May 2014 12:02 PM
Linda in Texas

Nobledancer - you said what many of us feel. Steve is our Treasure and he doesn't realize one iota just how much he means to all of us when it comes to writing about horses, racing, tracks, people, owners and jockeys and hearts. He doesn't miss a thing and he tells all of us what we need to know so we can share horse racing through his extensive experiences. We are indeed privileged, and he is just too naive and shy to realize how talented he is. I think about Steve's mother, since it is Mother's Day this Sunday. We are truly lucky Mrs. Haskin where ever you are. Be proud and thank you for a wonderful son.  And thank you Steve. You are the best.

09 May 2014 12:23 PM
Lise from Maine

Hi Steve!

As it relates to "time" Jockey Victor Espinoza "stood up" BEFORE he reached the end point (post), and that slows down the horse. So "time" is not a real factor in that race (see the video of the race). And who cares about time as long as he won.

Love your articles as usual.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, the fans.

Lise from Maine

09 May 2014 12:35 PM
Steve Haskin

Linda, I'm very moved by what you wrote. Thank you so much.

09 May 2014 1:36 PM
Peggy in California

Linda in Texas, You said what I have always thought, that Steve Haskin is a treasure.  You said it better, but I heartily endorse all of your sentiments, including thanking Steve's mother.  Steve, we don't say often enough how much we count on you to express the feelings that bring us all to horse racing.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart. --Peggy

09 May 2014 3:00 PM

Thank you, Mr. Haskin, for saying in so much better words what I feel in my heart about this horse and this crew of his. May the Year of the Horse prove to be the Year of California Chrome and a fine year for racing. :)

09 May 2014 5:47 PM
marcelo stubrin

The story of CC brought back similar good times which i enjoyed in1983-84 with a calbred FaliTime. he was bred by Jim Mamakos and myself out of aFirst Landing mare which cost $5000 by a Faliraki. Fali Time won the first millon dolar race in Hollywood Park, then the San Felipe, 3 rd in the S A Derby as favorite and on to the K D where he was 4th following the disqualification of Gate Dancer who he had defeated in the San Felipe. It quitje a ride a emotional time in our lives so I can understand whatbthese guys are going through. Congrats !!

09 May 2014 6:12 PM
Mike Relva

Steve,Linda's correct. Never read a bad article from you. Your writing is not only brilliant,but effortless.

09 May 2014 7:15 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

If one examines California Chrome's pedigree carefully you see that virtually ever branch of his family tree is littered with Nearco blood and a strong smattering of Native Dancer as well.  This IS NOT A HUMBLE PEDIGREE and represents one of the strongest potentials for both speed and stamina of any in the modern Thoroughbred.

09 May 2014 10:51 PM
A Horsey Canuck

Another Big Red horse, who has "captured the hearts of millions". The words of Lucien Lauren keep ringing in my head, "Just leave him alone; just let him run his own race." I wonder if this fellow will take us all back to that time again. With words alone, Steve, you have certainly taken ME back, to the days when I used to dream of Secretariat and all that he accomplished. Those dreams are all coming back to me now and I'm hoping that once again, dreams of a special Big Red horse will come true.

10 May 2014 6:14 AM

The running style might not be the same, but the California Chrome story sure reminds me of Carry Back. Those were the days.

10 May 2014 12:36 PM
Jean in Chicago

Lexington Bloodstock,  Thank you for mentioning Nearco.  Sure, he's generations back, and obviously as time goes by he is farther back, but there was something in his genes that keeps being passed down, primarily through his 3 greatest sons Nearctic, Nasrullah and Royal Charger.  Without Nearco and Native Dancer there would never have been Northern Dancer.  If you add Hyperion and Fairplay (and you enjoy tracing back pedigrees) you find colts and fillies who have passed along that unknowable something that produces a great horse.

10 May 2014 2:28 PM
dance with fate

Thoroughbreds can break the heart and miraculously heal it again. "Soothe the soul" for sure.  Kudos Mr. Haskin!  You inspire the beautiful thoughts of many readers.

10 May 2014 3:57 PM
Triple Crown Chrome

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for all the years of the Derby Dozen. I look forward to the first one every winter, with great anticipation, and follow them closely right up to the Derby. I also greatly appreciate Blood Horse for adding so much to the sport with this website. It keeps getting better.

As a horse crazy kid, I got to visit Lexington and see Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Nijinsky II. Perhaps this year will be for you, what 1973 was for Bill Nack. Here's hoping. There is no writer I would rather hear tell the story...

10 May 2014 10:11 PM

Dr. D,

I think we must have grown up at the same time.  My favorite show was Fury too and I can't believe you mentioned Alan Sherman's Camp Granada song!  I loved that song!

11 May 2014 11:24 AM
Linda in Texas

It is Mother's Day, so Happy Mother's Day to all the mama's, grand mums, sister's, and aunt's, etc. in the people world and to all the mares, grandmares, sister's, and aunt's in the horse world. Linda

11 May 2014 11:47 AM

I totally agree about the misplaced fascination with the time of this particular Derby. So many greats have run seemingly slow races only to come back and set records in their very next start. Regarding Chrome, he has already displayed the ability to run fast and maintain that speed. How quickly some forget the old adage, "pace makes the race."

This horse is push-button. He is kind. He does what is asked. He is beautiful with a gleaming copper coat and glistening mane and tail. He is reminiscent of so many champions in his pedigree.

The beginning of your piece struck me and so many others because we all share a common bond, a thread that binds us...we love horses. We all felt drawn to fictional and non-fictional horses alike because it was in our bloodlines. It's something that cannot be explained as well as it can be felt or experienced, but Chrome has given us another chance to experience this inherent emotion.

I sincerely hope and pray we do not see the demise of horse racing, for if we did, a piece of all of us would die along with it. How sad that would be. For now, let's just enjoy the ride and live vicariously through the connections of Chrome and this incredible dream come true. I can't think of a better time to Crown a champion.

Thanks Steve. Take care!

11 May 2014 1:56 PM


What a wonderful piece. Never tire of reading your great stories of this sport.

Here it is Mother's Day and let us pay tribute to the one who brought us all into this world, and probably told most of us at some point they could take us out too. But let us us especially remember the one who brought us this special horse we love hearing about, and that is Love The Chase, for she really put it all on the line when she gave birth to this special colt. And isn't she suitably named, for it truly is the chase that has kept these owners in possession of this horse. I think we all "love this chase" for the Triple Crown, that brings us all together at this great site, The Bloodhorse", so take time today pay tribute in someway  to the one for whom we celebrate tdoay.

11 May 2014 4:24 PM

But Andy Beyer said his female family was garbage, how can we have any faith in him

11 May 2014 9:28 PM

Thank you Steve, you did it again!!!

And thank you to Mr. Martin, Mr. Coburn, Mr. Sherman & California Chrome for letting us ride along with their dream.

12 May 2014 12:54 PM


I started that nephew on horse racing when he was 3 years old!  He is now 23.  He loved watching the races on TV and grew up loving them and racing.

It's always been about the horses for me.  I bet but I'm not a serious player. I've had some really good hunches though.  I was at Keeneland several years back.  I had been visiting a lot of the farms and I walked on to the grounds and the horses were in the saddling area and I saw one I really liked.  I put $5 across on him and I won $100.  I immediately went to the gift shop and spent it on horse shirts!  I used to have Derby parties and went all out with red rose arrangements around the house, I ordered the glasses for that year and everyone got one to take home.  I had it catered and made the Derby pie myself and it was a great time.  

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing one of those horses walking over to be saddled.  Their coat gleaming in the sunlight and their muscles rippling and their beautiful faces looking at the crowd.  I remember a film that was made I think, during Secretariat's TC attempt and they were showing a thoroughbred running in slow motion and talked about artists who always painted a horse with one foot on the ground when in fact, they actually leave the ground with all fours. The horse is a running machine with it's heart pumping fast and pumping blood and oxygen thought it's body.  It's really a marvel and one of the most beautiful and moving things I have seen is at the Kentucky Horse Park.  At the entrance there is this huge picture of horses running and the caption says "Thou shall fly without wings".  That made me cry and it's making me cry right now writing this because they truly do fly. God truly outdid Himself when he created the horse.

12 May 2014 1:40 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Monica V.

    Me too. I think the song was 63 or 64, but I'm not certain. I do remember that we sang parodies of his parody, changing the words to fit the occasion. I'm glad you mentioned that you loved Fury. Nobody ever mentions that show. Do you remember Truth or Consequences?

12 May 2014 1:57 PM

Dr. D,

Yes, I remember Truth or Consequences!  Bob Barker was the host before he did Price is Right who was hosted by Bill Cullen I believe.

12 May 2014 6:38 PM

Terrific column.  The sport needs more Coburns and Mitchells.

13 May 2014 1:02 PM


Excellent piece. We have all become too in love with speed. One of the first things I was taught was claimers are governed by speed and good horses are governed by class. Class is not how fast you go but how you go fast....it is that inner drive and stamina that make a horse refuse to quit regardless of the time and when need they can go very fast.

13 May 2014 2:27 PM

Turning down big money for a Cal bred from the other side tracks that cost them little or nothing to have bred. Owned by a couple of cowboys and trained by an aged former exercise rider of Swaps who's as old as Wayne Lukas. That's what it took to put a little sport back in "the Sport of Kings" which had become too much business and too little sport. The trio is about as far as it gets from royalty. This was a story made for Steve to memorialize and write it well he did - as always.

13 May 2014 4:28 PM
Soldier Course

About twelve years ago I discovered that my mother's brother Jack and I shared a love of horse racing. Uncle Jack was a character. He loved the horses and couldn't wait to tell us about the day he won $10,000 at Arlington Park.

Uncle Jack did me a big favor a few years before he passed away. At the time I was puzzled by his gesture, but now I understand. I had been given a lovely silver tray by a dear friend when I graduated from college 45 years ago. Over time it had become scratched and tarnished to the point that I'd stopped using it. Uncle Jack happened to notice it one day and offered to repair it. Little did I know!

Uncle Jack took the silver tray and brought it back a few weeks later, restored to its former glory. But I was at a loss for words when he told me what he'd done to my tray. He said, "I coated it with chrome."

Horrified at what he'd done to my precious silver tray, I asked him what he was thinking. Now I know.

13 May 2014 5:14 PM
Uncle Smiley

Steve, may I quote you...so susinctly stated...

"There are no more kings, and we are trying desperately to convince the world we are still a sport."

Maybe California Chrome is that call to rouse the people to enjoy this sport?

Seattle Slew did so in '77' and there are similarities with these two thoroughbreds and their connections.

All this being said, I am seeking a Baffert, Bayern, Napravnik turn out this Saturday.


13 May 2014 7:15 PM
Uncle Smiley

Dr. DB

Do you remember Bud Collier, the host of Beat The Clock.

By now he must be an alte clocker.


13 May 2014 7:18 PM

A beautiful Story, beautifully written.  You are a master, Steve.  Thank you for sharing your perspective.

13 May 2014 7:50 PM
Proud Acres

Mr.haskin's, you never disappoint. I loved this story and especially since I live 8 miles outside of YUBA City! Run Chrome (jr) run, may the gods be forever in your favoe

13 May 2014 7:52 PM

Exactly why we love racing, gets under your skin and in your blood. For all connected with California Chrome, may your dreams come true.

13 May 2014 9:41 PM

Steve, great article.  You forgot the most important, unraced horse from many of our childhoods, though: Marvel the Mustang!  He actually could move!

13 May 2014 11:30 PM
Greg R

I don't know whether Cal Chrome is another Alysheba, Seattle Slew or Spectacular Bid (equine heroes you mentioned above), but I don't want to see this ride end yet.  

If the Shermans worked Cal Chrome twice in four weeks between the S A Derby and the KY Derby and not at all in these two weeks before the Preakness, does that mean that they would probably work him ONCE in the three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont?

I usually respect the other returning Derby horses more than "new shooters" in the Preakness, but I would fear Bayern more than the Derby starters this time.

14 May 2014 12:19 AM
Donna Heim


14 May 2014 2:33 AM
Soldier Course

I've noticed that California Chrome seems to have an unusually long neck. Does anyone know if this would have any effect on his performance, like increased oxygen intake, for example?

14 May 2014 1:10 PM

I finally got the chance to read what I knew was coming....a more than spectacular article about Chrome and his dumb ass partners. As usual...you did not disappoint. "

Romantics and poets have a way of creating their own endings and making people feel and envision the beauty they are trying to portray with their words " yes..sir..you do.....you move me...I've missed this place.  

Read more on BloodHorse.com: cs.bloodhorse.com/.../a-horse-to-soothe-the-soul.aspx

15 May 2014 5:06 PM
Greg R

Soldier Course:  I believe that Wayne Lukas, an acute observer of conformation, said that he likes a long neck.  I am not commenting on whether C C has a particularly long neck - IDK.

15 May 2014 11:26 PM

Oh my goodness, What excellent writing and feeling. And mostly everyone's comments as well. Your gift of writing certainly facilitates others to reach inside of their own creativity. What a beautiful gift you share Sir. Thank you.

You wrote in words what I feel in my heart. I truly wish California Chrome his groom, exercise rider,trainer, owners and hot walker much luck in the upcoming Belmont. Whether they win or loose, they have already won, and their stories will live on because of wonderfully talented people, such as yourself.

I am an old race tracker, did everything from hot walking, to training and even rode one race. I in my senior years have one thoroughbred I adopted from Frank Stronach. He is my California Chrome and if he could speak, I think he would thank you too.

I was once asked "Who was the best horse you ever rode" My answer was "All of them".

Thank you Steve from all of the race track people out there and the thoroughbred horses who give their all. They really are loved and respected by many.

18 May 2014 1:10 PM

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