Chrome Sweet Chrome

Once again, we have reached the gates of the pantheon. Beyond beckons the ghosts of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Citation, and the seven other Triple Crown winners who have attained immortality. Will a California-bred, out of obscure and unheralded parentage be allowed to enter when so many have been turned away?

Is California Chrome “America’s Horse,” as his co-owner Steve Coburn claims? We are all aware that Coburn truly believes fate and other ethereal forces of a more personal nature are guiding his flashy golden chestnut toward those hallowed grounds that have existed for the past 36 years only in dreams.

There is an old proverb, which goes: “Today’s opportunity is yesterday’s dream and tomorrow’s memory.”

And no horse has seized the opportunity of the present, fulfilled dreams, and created memories quite like California Chrome. All one had to do was listen to the din and witness the revelry outside the stakes barn following California Chrome’s emotionally charged victory in the 139th Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 17 to realize just how popular a win this was, not only for the connections of the colt, but for a sport desperately in search of a hero the entire world can embrace. This was not a time for bluebloods, but for blue collars. Not a time for nobility, but a couple of “Dumb-Ass” working stiffs. The silver spoons that fed racing’s giants for most of the 20th century are for now plated with chrome, as resplendent as the coat of the Preakness winner.

The Disney-like story of California Chrome has been told many times in many ways since the colt’s victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Whether or not fate is involved is up to each individual, depending if they are a realist or a dreamer.

We are all aware of the birth of the son of the $2,500 stallion Lucky Pulpit, out of the $8,000 claimer Love the Chase, and how the mare lacerated the wall of her uterus giving birth, resulting in her and her colt having to be confined to a stall while she was recovering and being treated. That formed the basis of the colt’s independent personality and his close relationship with humans.

One day, trainer Steve Sherman, who was based in Northern California, received a phone call from Steve Coburn, who with partner Perry Martin was one of his clients.

“Hey, Steve, we got a really good one,” Coburn said. “We want to run him in Southern California to try to take advantage of the Cal-bred purses down there.”

Sherman replied, “Well, here, let me give you my dad’s phone number. Give him a call.”

Coburn called Art Sherman and sent him the colt. Art, at age 76, was at the tail end of his career, which had begun back in 1955 when he accompanied the great Swaps to Churchill Downs by train for the Kentucky Derby. While he went on to a fairly successful career as a jockey and then a trainer, he was relatively unknown outside of California.

Art and his son and assistant Alan began training the colt immediately after his arrival from Harris Farms, where he was born, raised, broken, and received his early training.

One morning at Hollywood Park, Alan, still not realizing what he had after only a few three-furlong breezes, was looking for a horse to work a half-mile in company with his new colt, named California Chrome. That would help him determine how fast and competitive the colt was. He found out that Eoin Harty was working one of his best 2-year-olds, on whom he was high, and was also looking to test him in company.

Harty went to the frontside to watch the work, while Alan remained on the backside, watching from the trainer’s stand. Harty was feeling good about the matchup, getting to breeze his colt with an obscurely bred Cal-bred. He felt that was the perfect scenario to make his colt look good and boost his confidence against a likely inferior opponent.

“I had Iggy Puglisi up on my colt, and when I heard Alan was looking for someone to work with his horse, I said, ‘Good, we’ll beat the tar out of this Cal-bred,” Harty said.

But what Harty saw was not what he expected. His colt worked well, but this other colt was moving the better of the two and dominated his colt.

“After the work, I said to Alan, ‘I don’t know what you’ve got there, but that is a very good colt.’” Harty recalled. “I’ve been around a lot of good 2-year-olds with Bob Baffert and then on my own and when you see something that catches your eye early on it really stands out. And that was an eye-catching work by that colt. As a trainer, when your good 2-year-old is outworked, it’s a terrible feeling, especially when he's’outworked by a Cal-bred trained by a low-profile trainer.”

Alan added, “Eoin was pretty high on his colt and Chrome just dusted him. I saw that and went, ‘Oh, damn, what have we got here?’”

He would soon find out. For the Sherman family, the journey of a lifetime had begun.

So, it was fate that brought California Chrome’s into Art Sherman’s life and it was fate that brought him into Willie Delgado’s life, but at the expense of his brother Alberto. It was Alberto who rode California Chrome in five of his first six starts. Following a troubled sixth-place finish in the Golden State Juvenile for state-breds, he was replaced by veteran Victor Espinoza. It was a crushing blow to Alberto, especially after California Chrome began his meteoric rise to stardom. But he has since come to terms with it and has become a fan of the colt.

“At first it was ‘Oh, damn,’ but I’m getting over it and I’m rooting for him,” he said, several days before the Preakness. “I think of what could have been, but at least I’m happy I had the opportunity to ride the horse, because I believe he can win the Triple Crown. The unfortunate part is that I was with the colt through the growing pains when he was just learning how to run. But when people now ask me who is the best horse I ever rode I can say California Chrome. They can’t take that away from me.

“I had fun riding him and it was an awesome experience. The day I broke his maiden I told Art this horse will win the Kentucky Derby. I wish I had a tape recorder to prove it. I knew he was something special. Even as a baby he was like an older horse. In fact, the first time I breezed him I thought he was an older horse. When they told me who he was, I said, ‘Oh my God! This is a 2-year-old?’”

Art feels badly for Alberto, but realizes it’s part of the game.

“I realize it’s hard on him knowing that this horse has gone to be what he’s become,” Art said. “I’ve been there myself. If you don’t perform and get the money, everybody looks to replace you. It’s a tough business.”

Ironically, after Alberto was taken off the horse, Willie was fired as an exercise rider for another outfit because the trainer he was working for said he had gained too much weight, claiming that was the cause of several of his horses breaking down. Several days before he was about to return to Maryland to look for work, Alan Sherman told him he wanted him to get up this 2-year-old they were high on. Fate once again played a hand in assembling the cast of characters that would guide California Chrome through life.

And fate and the memory of his deceased sister is what causes Steve Coburn to become so emotional following California Chrome’s victories, as he bursts into tears, barely unable to speak.

“I honestly don’t know how this has happened,” Coburn said following the Preakness. “I think all the moons and the stars lined up in the universe and gave us this wonderful colt and we’ve been blessed with this horse and the people associated with him – Art, Alan, Willie, and his groom Raul, who has been sleeping with this horse from day one. He loves this horse. And I think it’s time we have a Triple Crown winner. And when California Chome – and I want you to listen to me – when California Chrome wins the Belmont he will be the one and only California-bred to ever win the Triple Crown. And I do believe this horse is going to win the Triple Crown. I feel it in my heart and I’m going to take it to the bank.

“I say a prayer before every race, not only for my horse, but for all the horses and the jockeys. This horse was born on my sister Brenda’s birthday, Feb. 18. She died of cancer when she was 36 years old. It’s been 36 years since there’s been a Triple Crown winner. I’m sorry if I’m getting choked up, but I honestly believe that my sister Brenda is this horse’s guardian angel, and I just say, ‘Brenda, bring them all home and show them a safe path.’ And she’s been doing exactly what I’ve asked her to.”

Coburn’s only regret was that his partner, Perry Martin, chose to stay home after having a less than pleasurable experience at Churchill Downs. Art offered to put him in a wig and hide him from the cameras, but to no avail.

Coburn’s wife, Carolyn, was thrilled for her husband and thrilled for the horse. “I’m just totally in awe,” she said. “My gosh, that guy just always delivers. If we win the Triple Crown, Steve might have a heart attack.”

This year’s Preakness field unveiled a new cast of characters, with only California Chrome, Ride On Curlin, and General a Rod returning from the 19-horse Derby field. Classy speedsters such as Social Inclusion, Bayern, Pablo Del Monte, and tactical speed horses Dynamic Impact and Ring Weekend, as well as the filly Ria Antonia and stone closer Kid Cruz, all joined the fray.

California Chrome and Ride On Curlin arrived the Monday before the Preakness and were placed two stalls apart. During Preakness week, Art Sherman and Ride On Curlin’s trainer Billy Gowan developed a strong friendship that expanded to their families, and the family of Ride On Curlin’s owner Daniel Dougherty, and they would have many a fun-filled night at the hotel bar, sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company. They became so close and cared so much for each other, their mantra became, “One-two, one-two.” Every night they would repeat it, signifying how happy they would be for whoever won as long as they finished one-two.

On Friday morning, with Ride On Curlin scheduled to have a walk day following his Thursday work, Gowan showed up around 7 o’clock and heard it from Art. “I was wondering where you were. I was gonna walk your horse for you.” Quips like this had become a daily occurrence, as was Art going over to Ride On Curlin and playing with his tongue, which came out as soon as someone approached. He even accompanied Gowan to the pressbox porch to watch Ride On Curlin work.

One morning, Dan Dougherty showed up at the barn and promptly went over to see California Chrome, greeting the colt with a “Hi Chrome.” He then whipped out his cell phone and took a photo of the Derby winner.

“I’m not proud,” he said. “This is the only sport where you can root for someone and try to beat him at the same time. I like California Chrome, but I’d also like to run him down.”

Ride On Curlin grew stronger and more aggressive each day, while California Chrome, as he always does, just went out and did his thing, stopping repeatedly on the way to the track and checking out the new surroundings and striking magnificent poses for the photographers. Both colts had put on weight since the Derby. But when a story broke that California Chrome was coughing following his Thursday gallop, all hell broke loose in social media land. But the colt, who had coughed only four times, was checked out and it was considered nothing to be alarmed about; just a blister in his throat that he had before the Kentucky Derby that would not affect his performance.

Following heavy rains early on Friday, Preakness Day dawned sunny and breezy, with temperatures in the 60s. The Preakness horses who went to the track were feeling good, including California Chrome, who was the first one out for his jog. Alan Sherman and Delgado loved what they saw.

“Oh, man, he’s on it today,” Alan said while walking the colt back to the barn. “Bring ‘em on.”

Delgado didn’t need to say anything. All he did was give a double thumbs up.

Sherman was told by the security nightwatchman that California Chrome and Ride On Curlin were up at 4 a.m. and yelling at each other.

“They were just talkin’ smack to each other,” Alan told him. “They know they’re in today.”

Ride On Curlin, who came out immediately after the Derby winner, was a completely different story, as he reared straight up leaving the barn and then reared up four times as he was nearing the gap to exit the track. Gowan had to keep shouting at the horse while holding on to him to prevent him from doing it again walking back on the path. In between, however, he turned in a strong gallop, especially for a race day.

Exercise rider Bryan Becchia actually loved what he felt, despite being put in such a precarious position so many times.

“He’s never felt this good and been on point like he is right now,” Becchia said. “They’re gonna see the real Curly today. I’ve been gettin’ on him for six months and he’s never ever gone as good as he has since he’s been here. He’s never moved like he’s been movin.’ He floats over this track. What’s post time, around 6:20? He’ll be climbing over the walls by then.”

The money poured in on California Chrome, who was bet down to 1-2. The only other horse in the 10-horse field who was single-digit odds was Social Inclusion at 5-1. Owner Ron Sanchez was hoping to win for his native Venezuela and resurrect the memory of the country’s greatest hero Canonero II, who won the 1971 Derby and Preakness. Despite the colt having only three career starts, Sanchez has turned out numerous offers for the horse, including one for $7.5 million for 75% interest, in order to pursue his childhood dream.

California Chrome behaved beautifully in the infield saddling area, as did Ride On Curlin. Dan Dougherty gave jockey Joel Rosario some last words of advice: “Ride him hard, he can take it; believe me. There isn’t a horse in there to be scared of.”

In the gate, California Chrome was looking around, but had his head straight as the gates opened, breaking sharply. He was quickly joined on his outside by Pablo Del Monte, who went to the lead, with California Chrome settling nicely in second. Unfortunately for Bayern, he was put in the big squeeze by Ring Weekend to his inside and Ria Antonia on his outside, while getting jostled around pretty good. He then bumped hard with the filly, who came back in on him, and got shuffled back in the pack, never to pose a threat.

California Chrome always manages to work out a great trip, and when Ria Antonia moved up to surprisingly challenge for the lead, it left California Chrome in danger of getting put in a box by Social Inclusion. But jockey Victor Espinoza quickly moved California Chrome up in order to beat Social Inclusion to the outside garden spot in third, and in doing so actually shoved the burly Social Inclusion out of his way.

Down the backstretch after a quarter in :23.56 and half in a solid :46.85, California Chrome was still sitting in a perfect spot, moving up into second when Ria Antonia began her rapid retreat. Just as he did, Social Inclusion moved with him and was soon breathing down his neck, nearly pulling on even terms around the far turn. By now, the field had bunched and Rosario steered Ride On Curlin to the outside, where the colt began a strong sweeping move.

At the top of the stretch after three-quarters in 1:11.06, California Chrome, facing his first serious challenge in quite some time, repulsed Social Inclusion’s bid and, as usual, switched leads on cue and set sail for home, drawing clear. But Ride On Curlin was rolling on the far outside, and for a brief moment, it looked as if Social Inclusion might have softened the favorite up for a late challenger, especially since Ride On Curlin was drawing well clear of the rest of the field. But Espinoza shook up California Chrome and it was quickly apparent Ride On Curlin was not going to catch him.

Bob Baffert, watching on a small flat screen TV in the paddock, saw that Bayern had no chance to win and turned his attention to California Chrome.

“He’s gone; he’s got it,” Baffert said. “Come on, hold on there, boy. You know what, he’s an amazing horse. The way he was in the paddock; so relaxed. He’s got speed and knows how to stay out of trouble. He’s a freaky horse; he’s the real deal.”

California Chrome came home his final three-sixteenth in a powerful :19.19 to complete the 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.84, the fastest Preakness since Big Brown’s 1:54.80 in 2008. Ride On Curlin finished 6 1/2 lengths ahead of Social Inclusion, who just held off General A Rod for third.

Like in the Derby, emotions began to spill out all over the track, as wave upon wave of cheers greeted racing’s newest hero. Alan Sherman, disheveled and reaching deep for every breath, kept waiting for his first glimpse of California Chrome.

“Where’s my horse?” he asked. “Oh, there he is. This is just amazing, unbelievable. What a great horse; great ride. This is just a dream come true for all of us. I’m so happy. I’ve always loved this horse. He just tries so hard every time. That’s all you can ask. This horse loves Victor and Victor loves him. They get along so well. This has been such a fun time for us. We’ve still got one more to go, so we’ll just continue doing what we’ve been doing and hope it works out for the best.”

Alan has been wearing a hand-made purple and green bracelet that the 9-year-old daughter of one of Coburn’s friends made and gave to him at the Derby draw. He hasn’t taken it off since.

He then went to greet his horse, flinging his arms straight up in the air. Espinoza brought California Chrome well up the stretch, so the fans could see him, and they responded with a loud ovation.

“Words can’t describe this,” said Art Sherman’s wife Faye. “I feel fabulous for Art. This is the best thing to ever happen to us; a trainer’s dream, right?”

Art seemed overwhelmed to be engulfed in all this rapture, especially at his age. But he was also thinking of someone else; his new-found friend with whom he had bonded and welcomed into his family.

“Oh, man, what a thrill to be in this position,” he said. “My good friend ran second and I’m so proud of him. Billy is a real good kid and I know one day he’ll be standing here like I am today.”

Gowan had already received two phone calls from his mentor Jack Van Berg, who has been there all the way on this ride of a lifetime.

A proud Gowan was all smiles as he said of his colt, “That sucker just won’t quit.”

In a later quiet moment, Billy said to Art, “It’s like we’ve known each other forever.”

 “Well, we’ll be together in New York, too,” Art said. “Alan said they’re going to stable us together.”

“You better make sure,” Billy replied. “I don’t want to get too far away from you.”

Another person whose life has been touched by California Chrome is longtime Santa Anita patron Eddie Espinoza, who at the age of 71 stands to win $1 million if the colt sweeps the Triple Crown. As the random winner of the Santa Anita Derby Millionaire Contest, Espinoza and his wife were flown to Baltimore for the Preakness by Santa Anita and introduced to Art Sherman, who was told what Espinoza has riding on the Belmont Stakes.

"You win a million dollars if we win the Belmont?" Sherman asked as if shocked by the news. "Well, if we win, you better take me out to dinner that night." 

And so ends another chapter in this remarkable story, with its equally remarkable characters, all seemingly guided by fate. Could destiny grab these people by the hand and lead them this far only to abandon them in New York, where so many before them saw their Triple Crown dreams shattered in the vast expanse of Belmont Park? Can they guide this magnificent colt with such care and purpose from his humble beginnings to the sport’s brightest spotlight, only to cast him aside?

If there are indeed racing gods or Triple Crown gods or whatever name you want to give them, this is their opportunity to light up racing’s darkened corridors and display the sport in all its beauty and grace and show its detractors how much love and friendship it can nurture. Maybe all it takes is the bonding between everyday families and their horses, one of whom has become in our minds and hearts the golden steed of our childhood that is destined for greatness.

Oliver Wendall Holmes once said, “Nothing is so commonplace as the wish to be remarkable.”

Some, however, do not wish to be remarkable, but have it thrust upon them, whether they are a 3-year-old colt or a 77-year-old trainer.

The Shermans, Steve Coburn, Perry Martin and the other cast of characters have had it thrust upon them, and now they head to New York, where Art Sherman was born, to complete this fairy tale that so far has been, well, remarkable.


Leave a Comment:


Wonderful column, Steve. You are doing for thoroughbred racing what Dan Jenkins has done for golf. Keep writing these fine columns and I'll keep reading them!

Go Chrome, bring it home, kid.

19 May 2014 8:05 PM

A truly lovely story about remarkable horses,people and circumstances, written by a remarkable writer. Thank you for this, Mr. Haskin. I believe that it is one of your finer efforts.

God bless the horses and their people too.

19 May 2014 8:07 PM

This is a very well-written and emotive article, Mr. Haskin. I share your high ideals about and love for the kingly sport of thoroughbred horse racing. I ardently hope "Junior" wins the Belmont. However, I do not think he will. I SO hope I am wrong.

19 May 2014 8:25 PM
sara futh

Great story writing as always, Steve, and it IS A great story...for the people involved, and for racing. Here's hoping for a happy conclusion. It's about time!

19 May 2014 8:25 PM
Birks Goldens

Great piece and as always, so well written.  I felt like I was there. THANKS!

19 May 2014 8:28 PM
Eric Rickard

What I have come to expect. Thank you so much for writing what I feel.

This sport is not just about betting. I took my family to Saratoga for Circular Quay"s Hopeful. He was coupled and his odds were to low to bet. So I screamed the whole race. My wife asked how much did we win? I said zip, did not bet , just wanted to see him run and win. Our Sport Is much more than gambling.

19 May 2014 8:43 PM
Post Time

Steve, Once again thank you for a wonderful story. CC you have made us Californians so proud! Good Luck in 3 weeks.

19 May 2014 8:43 PM

It will be so positive for horse racing if he can accomplish the triple crown.  Most do not realize how poor this crop is but the world has been waiting for a long time for this story to be told.  Best of luck to them.  

19 May 2014 8:47 PM

The next couple weeks are going to be exciting as hell! I hope 200,000 people show up at Belmont!

...And they better play that Frank Sinatra 10 minutes before post!!!!!!

19 May 2014 8:47 PM

Wonderful piece, fantastic day, a golden (chestnut!) spring.  May they all stay healthy and have a great Belmont.

(and Steve - on my computer there's a lot of pieces of broken and repeated text in the paragraphs about Harty's horse, even when I refreshed the screen)

19 May 2014 8:47 PM

Dear Steve - No one ever could make up such a great story!!!  It is just remarkable and thank you for telling it so beautifully.  Go Chromie Go - We are right there with you!!!!  Stay healthy, and along with your owner praying for a safe trip for all the horses and riders.  

19 May 2014 8:49 PM
Carol Howard

Steve, you are my Paul Harvey and as usual you did not disappoint! I love everything about this horse and all the connections. Looking back now to I'll Have Another I think maybe he wasn't meant to run instead allowing this really feel good story to unfold for all of us that have had a dream. Thank you Steve for adding the backdrop to this already magical story.

19 May 2014 8:56 PM
Old J.D.

As Always, Great story Steve.

19 May 2014 8:58 PM

Steve, stay close to these people and keep bringing us the stories of a lifetime!  You've been bringing joy to us through the written word and pictures of these amazing animals and I hope this is a triple crown, not only for the connections, but for Steve Haskin which would be a well deserving reward for you, too!

19 May 2014 8:58 PM

Excellent as always, thank you Steve.

(Story is screwed up starting with paragraph "After the work" jumbled and repetitive)

19 May 2014 8:59 PM

Steve; just as this colt keeps getting better and better, so do your columns about Chrome, his connections and what seems, more and more, to be his destiny.

19 May 2014 9:10 PM

Hi Steve. I'm in the middle of reading this and I don't know about anyone else, but there are some mistakes that I think need to be fixed. See the paragraph "After the work, I said to Alan...". That sentence is in that paragraph twice, and then see a couple of paragraphs below that, it looks like there's an unfinished sentence. You can delete this comment, but I thought you'd like to know. I have only gotten that far, I'm loving this story! Thanks for another great story about our (California's) little Cal-Bred! ~Gloria

19 May 2014 9:13 PM
The Deacon

Steve:  All your stories are priceless, some are as well timeless, this is one of them.

Maybe, just maybe we'll have a Hollywood ending, sure been a long time.

19 May 2014 9:23 PM
Steve Haskin

My wife pointed out the screw-up. I have no idea what happened in the system, but I fixed it. It should read correctly now. Very weird.

19 May 2014 9:27 PM
Evon's Bully

What a wonderful tale told through the eyes of a master storyteller.  Thank you, Mr. Haskin, for bringing all of us in closer to the lives of these wonderful people.  

Go Team Chrome!!!

19 May 2014 9:36 PM

Another great story Steve, Great Horse, Great Owners and Great Trainer.   I want like everyone else that loves horse racing for him to win the Triple Crown.   Let's hope he stays healthy for the next 3 weeks.   Go CC

19 May 2014 9:36 PM

Loved this story, Steve! I didn't know about the friendship between the two trainers that had developed and they end up running first and second. And, I had read about Eddie Espinoza before the Preakness but had forgotten about his story. On to New York! Start spreadin' the news...

19 May 2014 9:48 PM

I kept wondering the past couple of days what angle you would find, Steve. The details of this story have been told and re-told so often, we can recite them verbatim.  As usual, though, you got the part of the story that others missed, the friendly rivalry with Ride On Curlin and his trainer Billy Gowan and the blossoming new friendship between him and the old-timer Sherman. You can detect the joy as each talks about the other and the excitement they are sharing together, sounding like two  boys going off to school together, hoping to have "rooms" next to each other. I did read somewhere that they may be going to John Shirreffs' Belmont barn, which Art said he hoped would work out. And Baffert is never more endearing and likeable than when he is admiring someone else's horse! I recall when Zenyatta was running and he was like a groupie hanging around taking photos of her, and rooting for her. His obvious admiration for California Chrome is high praise indeed. Looking forward to the next 3 weeks and more vignettes from your pen as this story continues to unfold. Life is good!

19 May 2014 9:52 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Chrome is so smooth it's amazing. I think that is why he has been a little underrated by some including myself.  When Victor steps on the gas The Chrome is gone in a flash, burning rubber in 4th gear, and then Victor just sets The Chrome to cruise control and it's all over. He just cruises along with unbelievably smooth action, listening to the Beach Boys on the radio. I don't know if he is thinking about California Girls down the stretch but he might be. Nothing interferes with the business at hand. He is a joy to watch. The Chrome is one cool customer, a polished performer. Good luck to everyone including Eddie Espinoza and his wife, and everyone going to Belmont to see the prince become a king, and safe trips for all. It's a tough field so it won't be a walk in the park, but a shootout at OK Corral, but The Chrome is tougher and faster than Wyatt Earp so he should still be the sheriff when it's over with but with a shiny new crown in the form of a star made of polished chrome. Back at the bar after the race he'll be buying drinks for everyone, make it a triple bartender.

19 May 2014 10:00 PM

You know, Its been 36 years since the last TC win and I'm hoping CC pulls it off. The world is way over due for this and I hope to see at least one TC win in my lifetime. I feel as though this horse may be the one to do it. I'm not going to jinx him by saying he MUST accomplish this only to say I hope and pray he can. IF he fails to win the third leg of the TC then I'm not going to hold it against him. Plenty ahead of him has tried and couldn't do it so it's not going to be the end all to his remarkable accomplishments thus far. If for some reason he fails to win the last leg. I love this horse and love his story. I do believe it's going to be a horse from humble beginnings like this that will take the horseracing world to the next exchion and win the TC. I do, however, wish and pray that CC and all going into the Belmont Stakes a safe and good run going in and coming out. I know this is a more taxing run on these great animals.  God be with all of them, may they all return safely to their stalls after the race.

19 May 2014 10:01 PM
lawrence vaccarelli

steve you are simply a witch with words ! bravo ! you should write the screenplay for the moviewhich is sure to be a tale.

19 May 2014 10:16 PM
lawrence vaccarelli

years from now, you steve will be the writer that is mentioned when the tale of chrome is told.

19 May 2014 10:18 PM

As always an amazing story :)

I remember several years ago you wrote that you believed the next Triple Crown winner would be a horse who proved something at 2.  I am curious, do you think Chrome falls into this category?  I know he wasn't a world beater at 2 but he did race quite a bit.

I think he a unique TC contender compared to the other recent Derby/Preakness winners.  You have horses like Big Brown (he stands out) who were super talented but didn't have a lot of foundation to fall back on.  I would put Smarty Jones and even I'll Have Another in this category, each horse was making their 8th or fewer start in the Belmont (or would have in the case of IHA).  Chrome is making his 13th start.

On the flip side, there have been horses who had the foundation but were not in the same category talent wise as the ones I mentioned above - Real Quite, Charismatic, etc.  I feel like those horses were peaking at the right time to do what they did.  Chrome seems to me to be a combination of the two, he has the foundation and after a slight regression (time wise, not visually) in the Derby, he came back strong in the Preakness.  If he can hold that form for the next three weeks, we might just have a chance this year!  

Of all the near misses he reminds me most of Smarty, he has the speed and the push button move, however he can rate better and I think that will only help in the Belmont.  Its not going to be easy but I think he has a better chance than many of the others who have fallen short.  The next 3 weeks are going to be quite a ride!

19 May 2014 10:22 PM

Another feel good story weaved with your magical touch, Steve. Whether California Chrome wins the Belmont or not, he is a standout that along with his connections have captured the respect and love of the fans. This last race on the Big Sandy is going to be tough and there will be lots of fresh horses in the mix, but I'll be rooting for California Chrome to win. May the Triple Crown gods bring them all home safely.

19 May 2014 10:31 PM

IOWay; I think your comment "Most do not realize how poor this crop is" is quite offensive to a colt proving himself to be very good indeed.  Many will argue the time for the Derby validates your statement but the Derby win was very easy and the Preakness time was very good.

It's way too early in the careers of these young 3-yr old colts to brand them a weak crop.  

19 May 2014 10:42 PM
Susan from VA

Oh Steve.  Each column is better than the previous one!  I love your writing - it makes me feel like a real insider.

19 May 2014 10:46 PM
Rachel best 3 yr old filly ever


1st thing 1st! Thanks for your trifecta & superfectas picks. That was the easiest tri & super I ever hit.  Now! The story, it was just unbelieveable how you drew me in from start to finish. The owners are exactly what the sport needs. Humble men with tremendous character. To come from what the PETA  

Scandal created in the sport. To this chapter in our sport with the Triple Crown on the line with true honest horsemen. Is a statement to the outside non horse players, that not all owners and trainers are dirty and cheat. Sometimes Good guys do finish 1st! CC makes us proud and bring it home for all the Good Guys out there.

19 May 2014 10:53 PM
Flying Paster

Steve, you write like Chrome runs—gracefully, powerfully, well in front of the others.

19 May 2014 11:02 PM
Katie L.

Eric Rickard: Couldn't agree more. I never did any single bet, the thought never crossed my mind. I'm loving racing for the athlete the horses are, for the thrill of seeing them go. And even when my favorite loose and I'm a little disapointed on the moment, I can still admire the winner (and not start hating my favorite) cause I didn't lose any money on it

19 May 2014 11:12 PM

Glad you got that tech gremlin out!  Thanks for this wonderful summary.  It is a golden (chestnut) spring and I'm loving every minute of it.  I hope the press gives them a little break for at least part of each day so CC and ROC can talk smack in private!

19 May 2014 11:20 PM
Uncle Smiley

Looks probable this year.  Like the idea of praying for the safety of all involved.

As for me, I will likely wear a nasal strip in solidarity with the DAPs.

19 May 2014 11:23 PM
Paula Higgins

Well, I just got back from Amsterdam in time to read this article. Another great one Steve. I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. when I was there to see if California Chrome won. I was on Cloud 9 to see that he did it once more and very convincingly. Could not have been happier. The next leg of the Triple Crown is always the deal breaker, but whether he wins or loses the Belmont, this is one very special horse. He won the Santa Anita, the Kentucky Derby and now the Preakness. He is HOTY regardless of what any other horse does this year. I know I am being greedy, but can you imagine if he won the Belmont AND the Breeders Cup Classic as well? Not impossible.

19 May 2014 11:38 PM

Great writing and a great story...a very strong performance by the top two. BTW, Steve, if you watch the race you will see where JJ had to almost stop and change course with Gen A Rod. And he came again and almost got third. It was the filly and Borel stopping in front of them according to JJ. It cost the horse 3rd place. He was also running strong at the end. The Derby horses ran the 3 best races in the Preakness.

SI needs a break. They are rushing this horse. He could be a great miler or two turn horse. They need to rethink running another grade 1 at Belmont Park at 12f, unless it is the Met Mile or something. That might be a bit too much right now too, but they need to step back with this horse and let him dominate against lesser graded horses or he could be ruined. His acting up shows that he is not comfortable about all of this so soon and the big crowds.

19 May 2014 11:43 PM

Steve Haskin ~ A  "remarkable" story by a "remarkable" author! How wonderful it is to read this and how wonderful it is to know the uncomplicated and simple way that all of this has come together for "The Chrome" and his connections and all those that surround him in his journey......This colt has done more for racing than its affiliates, associations, groups, even its core of operations and its fans. He does not cease to amaze and he "will make it here" because he already "made it anywhere".

The Belmont is no breeze but this glowing copper penny is "tails Up" .

Thank you Mr. Haskin for a beautiful story that supports our trust ~ in "dreams" and "fate" and in  California Chrome!

19 May 2014 11:48 PM

Good stuff Steve..

19 May 2014 11:49 PM

Sport of Kings they call it.

Well good for the Kings that spend millions on horses. Kings that will drop a horse at a moments notice for a buck or send them to the breeding shed..

Chrome is not a Kings horse he is a Horse for the good ol commen folk..

Full of Good Karma and Good Times.

Just great stuff and all the best to all associated with this horse..

Hate that the Chrome hats are going for over a $100.00  on Ebay though,that's a Kings ransom, would sure like one though..

19 May 2014 11:59 PM
Meydan Rocks

Cali Chrome's 1st gen breeding is indeed humble. I was curious and found out that if go deep into the lineage you start wondering… are the ancestors sending their talent to him recessively?

California Chrome's pedigree… a few standouts minus more standouts.  

GRAND PARENTS -- AP Indy/Mr Prospector – (Male/Female line) respectively.

GREAT GRANDIES - Seattle Slew/Caro(4th in the Arc & Sire of Winning Colors/Numbered Account/Sir Ivor (2nd in the Arc De Triomphe) as great grand parents.

GREAT GREAT GRANDIES --- Man o War/Mumtaz Mahal aka THE FLYING FILLY/Sir Gaylord (Sire of Epson Derby winner Sir Ivor) Caro (NTR at Longchamps over 2,100m[1.3 miles]

The Tetrach (rated #1 two year old of the 20th century as GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDIE.

And then there is Princequillo in there somewhere. I am told that he was a very significant sire.

20 May 2014 12:01 AM

Mr. Haskin, your columns just keep getting better and better! Thank you for bringing us these great stories and helping us feel close to what may be history in the making on June 7!

20 May 2014 1:18 AM

You've done it again, Steve! This article brought tears to my eyes. All we can do is hope....this horse deserves the Triple Crown, he's a fast, tactical, and smart steed. I want to get my hopes up, they are up, but I'm keeping fairly quiet. If he wins it, oh boy!

20 May 2014 2:15 AM
English Pete

Great article Steve. Make no mistake, this is going to be a real test for Chrome. Since Affirmed, 12 have tried and failed to wrap up the TC in the Belmont. The mile and a half will stretch his stamina to the limit, and five other horses are currently trading at single figure odds in the UK. I really hope Chrome wins as I know all racing fans in the USA are so excited about this horse, and rightly so. He's clearly become the 'people's horse', so good luck everbody.

20 May 2014 4:12 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words. I am heading to Belmont to see CC arrive. I will post additional comments when I return.

20 May 2014 5:16 AM

Once again, a wonderful tale told by a master....

20 May 2014 7:51 AM

Awesome column Steve!!! I've followed Chrome through you since just hoping that he brings it home in the Belmont!  Racing really needs a Triple Crown winner and the California Chrome family fits right into that need.

20 May 2014 8:20 AM

Thanks.  Great column.  I know Chrome's sire and dam didn't do much, but I am a bit confused as to why it is said over and over that Chrome has a modest pedigree! I see he's inbred 4 X 5 to Mr. Prospector; and Seattle Slew and Secretariat, respectively, are in the 4th and 5th generations on the top.  Or does going back a few generations not figure in that much when considering a horse's pedigree?  

20 May 2014 8:48 AM

Thank you, Steve !. The back stories of Art and Billy becoming friends, 'Chrome and "Curly" talking smack to each other at 4:00 am the morning of the Preakness... and Bob Baffert's comments watching the flat screen show 'Chrome surging to the wire for the win paint a fine and realistic picture for us, the fans.

20 May 2014 8:58 AM

Wonderful article.  I, too, feel something magical about California Chrome.  I am pulling for him to be a Triple Crown winner.

20 May 2014 9:33 AM
Kathie Goetsch

Once again, Steve, a fine article and a great read.  I became a fan of Chrome after watching his win in the San Felipe, although at the time I'll admit wasn't thinking Triple Crown.  I am now.  People say, "what makes you think he can win the Belmont?"  What makes one think he can't?  His detractors say, "he hasn't beaten anybody".  Actually, he's beaten EVERYBODY this year.  I'm glad to see he's starting to get some respect.  I was starting to think the ghost of Secretariat was going to have to walk out of a cornfield and say "go the distance" before the horse got the respect he deserves.  It doesn't matter what the handicappers think of him, the fact that so many of the leading trainers think he's the real deal speaks volumes.  Pedigree has a value, but what matters most is heart and the will to win.  It's true that history would suggest he won't win the Belmont, but history was against all of the Triple Crown winners at some point.  I'm hopeful of a sunny and dry Belmont day, a clean trip for all, and the outcome that makes the most people smile for a while.

20 May 2014 9:56 AM

I hope to read Steve's column again after Chrome wins the Triple Crown.  That will make the win even sweeter.  Even if he doesn't make it, it's been a great ride.

20 May 2014 10:14 AM

Wonderful--eyes got misty. Everyone talks about Chrome's obscure parentage, a stallion with a "cheap" fee, an unknown mare. But look deeper into the pedigree--Chrome is a grandson of A.P. Indy, Seattle Slew and Secretariat--now there's three to draw to (to quote Mr. Wayne). On the distaff side, there is Danzig, Mr. Prospector, and Northern Dancer. These are just a few of the stellar names that appear in his blood line. Chrome reminds me of another "people's horse"--everyone called him blue collar, his sire was a stallion no one wanted to breed with, so the owner bred her own mare to him, he knocked about for a time,the right connections did not find him as quickly as Chrome's did, his potential over looked, because of flashier models, but his blood line had blue running through it, just like Chrome's, his name was Seabiscuit. Sometimes from "humble" parents comes a foal that has greatness, not because of the triumphs of the parents, but because of the entire family, each contributing a part that becomes the foal. Be safe Chromie, come home sound. May the generations that came before be with you at Belmont. Soar with the wings of eagles.

20 May 2014 10:42 AM

Wow, Steve!  As usual you take us down the path of beautiful words and sentiment because you truly love what you do and you truly love these animals and feel it all the way to the bottom of your soul.  That's what makes you the great writer you are.

Watching this horse run his last 4 races has been a real joy.  He is in a class of his own.  Because of his breeding and only running in California before the TC, most people, especially outside of Cali, didn't take Chrome seriously.  The "expert" commentators at the Derby didn't think he had a chance.  He would fade to 4th.  He was facing regally bred horses, after all.  It was a decisive win.  Preakness?  Didn't unfold as foretold.  SI was forced to rate and he tried to go with CC and couldn't do it.  ROC, bless his heart!!!  I love that horse!  He sure gave it his all but at the end, it was California Chrome.

I sometimes get these gut feelings and I had them for the Derby and the Preakness and knew without a doubt that he would win.  I wasn't so sure before those races as I was reading all the posts by people trying to beat Chrome and talking about the other horses who were sure to beat him but on the race day, I knew he would prevail.  It is apparent to me that this horse is head and shoulders above the rest.  Maybe this is a mediocre crop but this horse is a stand out and would be in any crop.

If you think about these last two races and watch them it is kind of other-worldly.  In the Derby, he was ahead of the bumping and rough trips of the rest, thank God all were okay after the race.  The Preakness, the same thing.  His races seem to unfold to his advantage.  I realize Victor is the pilot and guiding him but it's strange all the same.  It's as though there are forces in his favor maybe it's racing luck but maybe it's what Mr. Coburn thinks, it's his sister guiding the horse.  Most people don't believe in that sort of thing and that's fine but I do believe it.  This whole group of people are real, hardworking and have so much in common with all the rest of us and so much love for this horse and so much goodness it's no wonder they have a nation behind them. I truly wish I could have been there and heard the crowd as this colt came thundering down the stretch.  Reminds me of that movie "Dreamer".  "When he ran, the ground shook".  I believe this is greatness on display here.  As I have said before, I am a romantic and horse racing to me is romantic, as romantic as it comes.  The one thing I truly believe at this point, though many will disagree because of fresh horses coming in for the Belmont, this horse is going to show us something special and prove he deserves to be among the likes of the other 11 horses who reached the pinnacle and won the Triple Crown.  My prediction is he will win and win big. Again, I wish I could be there to hear the crowd when he "shakes" the ground!

20 May 2014 10:42 AM

Wonderful piece Steve. Your love for the game is so evident. Your ability to make your readers feel like they are there with you as you watch the story unfold is,in itself, remarkable. Thank you.

The cast of characters surrounding this horse is so perfect. Glimpses into these devoted people's lives is so refreshing.

Raul his groom has the great fortune of having his family involved in his profession on a daily basis. His work ethic is second to none. His pride in, love for, his horse is a synergy that is prodigious.

Willie his exercise rider always offering his horse loving patting on the neck. His apparent expertise galloping the horse, making it look so easy, when it is so critical to make sure the horse's output in exercising is exactly what is called for.

Alan, the horse's jovial younger Sherman, nonchalant and graceful, is taking this ride of his life with joy. Quick, to the point, in all his answers to some rather difficult questions, always spot on.

Victor his jockey, sly like fox, wearing a shrewd and pleasant smile, praising himself and quickly retracting to exalt his horse before himself.

Art his trainer, so friendly, storied and genuine, constantly pinching himself to make sure this is real and realizing that it is a dream, a dream coming true.

Steve and Perry his Dumbass  breeders/owners, the dream makers. Steve, the flamboyant half, Perry the reserved half of a green donkey that the horse carries on his race to immortality.

Strange as it may seem, the horse seems to personify and magnify all the traits, quirks and characteristics that his family, closest friends and coworkers posses. He work ethic, his lovable nature, his graceful stride, his obvious joy in what he does, his cunning domination, his straightforward approach, his bold moves in races, his fidgety antics in the gate all are transmitted behaviors that only a very special horse could assimilate and reproduce.

This horse has the story that only a California Chrome could possibly create.

20 May 2014 10:45 AM

Wow, Steve.  Thank you so much for bringing us this incredible story, written with so much heart and details as only you can develop.  Amazing story and I'm so happy to be watching this unfold in hopes the fairy tale comes true.  Thank you so much for sharing your talents for discovery as well as writing.  Thanks!

20 May 2014 11:29 AM

Steve, your words paint pictures that our eyes can see, that our ears can hear and our hearts can feel.

20 May 2014 11:31 AM
Donna Heim

Just reading this remarkable and amazing story gave me thrill after thrill.  God bless California Chrome with victory in Belmont.

20 May 2014 12:08 PM

Totally awesome, Steve. Your talent is without equal - you simply "take us there". I'm especially happy for the credit given to Alberto Delgado -- he, after all, put the foundation in "Chrome". Best wishes to all for the Belmont -- dreams can come true.

20 May 2014 12:36 PM

Thankyou Steve for this ,another, great article, you are the best.

I hope the California Chrome name goes down in history as the next Triple Crown winner. The people who have brought him to this point deserve it.


20 May 2014 12:39 PM
Back Home in LA

I've been waiting to read Steve Haskin's heartfelt coverage of the Preakness. Once again, you held me hostage with your stories. I felt the goose bumps along with the Shermans as they began to realize just what a horse they might have been given. Steve Coburn's faith in this horse, and in fate, moves me to tears, I cry along with him every time. Thank you Steve, once again for bringing these stories to life, to us, in such a fashion that captivates the very heart and imagination of each reader. Good luck to the California Chrome team and, God willing, may we all celebrate his story once more in three weeks with tears of joy and great happiness, that after 36 years, we have crowned a king.  

20 May 2014 12:55 PM
Linda in Texas

This was the most challenging and exciting race from California Chrome's standpoint. As he rounded the track i wondered, does he or doesn't he have something left, and shame on me for doubting because he did. Just a great ride by Victor. Being interviewed his words referring to the race were when asked "it was complicated" and it truly was. But he won. Don't know if i like all the chumming with Ride on Curlin, don't want Chrome to think he has to let him get ahead! But then i am more skeptical than i should be.

Thank you Steve, and to have Bob Baffert say "he's the real deal and I don't want anything to do with California Chrome" said it all. Three weeks will seem like a long time and i hope everyone regroups to enjoy the wait.

And Steve, you and Deacon also said from January on,"he's the real deal." And he truly is. Wishes for all to be safe, sound and sane. Thanks so much Steve.    

20 May 2014 12:59 PM
Indian Hemp

12Fs? problem...the bottom line of 4 X 4 to Numbered Account leads to rich Triple Crown history.

20 May 2014 1:13 PM
food fight

I wish all of the connections with CC well and from my heart i hope they win it but my brain says something else will happen. 3 races in 5 weeks and first time over the big sandy is difficult even for a very smart colt like CC there will be pressure at several crucial splits and then there will be closers that will relish the distance and the track like Commissioner, Wicked Strong, maybe Danza . There is another in here in Tonalist that if he runs like Social Inclusion did in the Preakness he will force CC to run on making him vulnerable to the stalkers and closers like Commissioner and Wicked Strong or perhaps Danza. i absolutely love Commissioner he is coming into a big effort in the Belmont and should where them down at the wire.  

20 May 2014 1:14 PM

Another wonderful narrative, Steve. We are so lucky as racing fans to have you to observe and report back - and to make our hearts soar as each horse captures one's imagination. Thanks again for sharing the little inside stories, and the feelings stirred by the possibility of racing's possible resurrection, riding with the confident countenance of everyman's horse on four white socks, and buoyed by those unexplained ethereal forces. Isn't racing just the best - when it's the best?!?

20 May 2014 1:30 PM

Lovely piece.  Thanks for writing and for the wonderful photos you posted earlier on FB.

20 May 2014 2:49 PM
rachel fan

When you first brought CC to our attention through the Derby Dozen, I immediately googled him and found his most recent race on youtube. He was astounding and I saw exactly what you noticed about his long stride and straight as an arrow running motion. He reminded me of Rachel Alexandra the way he covered the ground so effortlessly and beautifully. After the race, when Steve Coburn gave him a big kiss on the nose, he seemed to be standing there like an excited kid waiting for it. I went from being an instant admirer to a true fan in the space of about 3 minutes. Not many horses that can capture your attention and your affection so swiftly, but he certainly has. Steve, thanks for the way you always somehow blend the analytical with the heart and soul of racing. It's obvious that you care deeply about the sport and about these magnificent animals and their connections in equal measure. I'll be rooting for CC to stay healthy and happy and show us on Belmont day that he can go the distance and much more.  

20 May 2014 3:13 PM

I love CC but what is up with Perry Martin? You weren't treated how you would like or how you thought you should have been? So just picked up your marbles and went home? Come on Perry, rise above it and be a professional!

I give a thumbs up to Steve Coburn! He is the man!

20 May 2014 3:42 PM
Soldier Course

Your beautiful words beseeching the racing gods not to abandon California Chrome in his golden hour are nothing short of spiritual. I hope they are listening. Thanks for finding the heart of the matter.

Yes, we all know what a challenge the Belmont Stakes is. But instead of focusing on all the losers, I think now of Afleet Alex. He ran in all three races, won the Preakness after clipping heels and going to his knees, then won the Belmont. If that could happen, why not California Chrome?

Love Art Sherman and Victor Espinoza. Mr. Sherman seems more relaxed with the media now. Victor's serious about this ride, and that's reassuring.

Someone commented about the chumminess between the trainers of CC and ROC. Best to keep things at arm's length when preparing for battle. I learned the hard way that an opponent can disarm you with charm. Deliberately.

20 May 2014 3:52 PM
The Deacon

Linda in Texas:  Thank you for noticing, yes I have loved "Chrome" from the start. His acceleration and turn of foot is amazing. From the quarter pole to the sixteenth pole he looks like one of the all time greats.

Indian Hemp:  Folks have brought up Numbered Account being in Chromes bloodline. Here is some more interesting facts, Numbered Account's dam was Intriging.

Intriging was sired by the all time great Swaps. Swaps sire was Khaled. Khaled is considered one of the best sires in racing history. Swaps was only a modest sire but he did have 2 pretty good runners in Affectionately and No Robbery. So Chromes bloodline is there, albeit goes back a ways. Khaled also sired Terrang, New Policy, Correspondent, Physician, Linmold, and Corn Off the Cob to name a few. This goes back a ways but many other old timers will remember these champions. Khaled's sire was Hyperion. Khaled was bred in Great Britain by Aga Khan.............

20 May 2014 3:54 PM

I guess the mark of a true champion is when they do a better job than their previous victory.  Looks like both you and California Chrome equally fit into that category. Thank you for another great reading experience. I am one of those poorer individuals who does not have a way to watch the races, so thank you for such a vivid accounting of The Preakness. Much luck to California Chrome and Ride on Curlin, the wonderful people that support them, and let all of those horses that compete have a safe journey. It would be fantastic to have a Triple Crown winner this year especially one like this, but if not CC and his human family have already won what is most important.

20 May 2014 4:06 PM

Oh!! and Steve have a great and memorial time st the Belmont.

20 May 2014 4:08 PM

Thank you so much for this wonderful story Steve.  Lots of interesting tidbits told in a heart-felt manner.  As per my "name," this is all very new to me, and this is the first time in my life that I've had the opportunity to be so excited about a horse.  I entered the scene just as Zenyatta was exiting so have not had the thrill of cheering on a real hero.  I just hope that he stays healthy and happy until June 7th and that we'll all be back here thank you again for taking us along on this spectacular ride!

20 May 2014 4:18 PM
dance with fate

A famous poster of John Henry quotes Shakespeare - "Some are born great, some achieve greatness..."   'Chrome is both.  The thoroughbred artist Fred Stone's painting, "A Century of Heroes - A New Millenium" shows a chestnut foal in the foreground with the spirits of some 20th century thoroughbred icons racing in the sky above.  I believe the spirit of that little foal is within 'Chrome and may all come home safe and may we see a TC.  Enchanting story, Mr. Haskin, and soul-felt comments that are truly a pleasure to read. I believe in magical dreams.

20 May 2014 4:29 PM


This was the first time I have read your column. I really like your style. You will have another ardent reader and will have to go some to top this story. I'll be at the Belmont to watch history being made! Thanks!

20 May 2014 4:57 PM

Another story by the greatest, Steve Haskin.  Its already printed and in my keepsake binder along with all your other fabulous writings.  I am so grateful.  Thank you.

20 May 2014 5:20 PM
Carlos in Cali

When Cali Chrome shoved SI out of the way it immediately reminded me of his great-great grand daddy Seattle Slew's Ky Derby... "get out of the way,that's my spot"!

20 May 2014 5:30 PM

Another great, great story, Steve! If any horse could run like you write, they would automatically be triple crown winners.  At the Derby Museum, I will happily share this tale from now on.  It is a great story for all ages!  However, from now to the Belmont, I am keeping a low profile.  Don't want to say or do anything to jinx him, even though CC does not need my help.  Maybe just stop by Swaps' grave and pray for safety for all and say 'if you can't help me, please don't help anybody else.  just stealing a phrase from Phil Harris.    

20 May 2014 5:36 PM
Soldier Course


The two owners both strike me as having a chip on the shoulder. I cringed when Mr. Coburn ranted about CD in the televised winner's circle ceremonies at Pimlico. That had to be embarrassing for MJC and the dignitaries present. Mr. Martin showed very poor sportsmanship in not attending the Preakness. I've stopped paying any attention to these two connections. From now on it's just about the horse for me, with appreciation for Mr. Sherman and the jockey.

20 May 2014 6:50 PM

I believe.  

36 years since a TC winner.  That's 12 years for each horse that wore the crown in the 70s.  Also the age that Coburn's sister passed away. He believes she is watching over him.

11 horses have broke from the gate in the Belmont Stakes with a chance to make history.  CC will be number 12.

I can't say that information makes me a believer but it sure is interesting how the moon and stars are in fact aligning.

I'll be there on the wire!

20 May 2014 6:56 PM

Steve-nice job on the Chrome column. i was impressed with the way Chrome picked up his feet in the Preakness to produce an above average time. i was equally impressed with the way Commanding Curve closed for runner-up in the Derby when he came from way back after the speed set such a slow time up front. For the belmont i will pick Curve to win , ONLY if he fires a bullet in his final work. if not, i see no reason why Chrome can't win the triple crown. p.s.-I didn't realize Chrome was related to 1929 derby winner Clyde Van Deusen(damside). To almost borrow a nutty comment" I can see Clyde Van Deusen's old Hurricana Farm home from my FRONT yard". GOOD LUCK TO BOTH CC'S.

20 May 2014 7:56 PM

I've been reading your columns for years, Steve. You never fail to capture the essence of your subjects--the story behind the story. I just wanted to say thank you for all of the stories, and all of the pictures, and all of the memories your words tend to stir up. You are truly one of the best!

20 May 2014 8:48 PM

An amazing, warm and deeply personal insight to the Preakness.  I love hearing how much they all love this horse.  We first went to the Preakness in 2004, when Smarty brought down the house. Until this Saturday, I haven't since felt that much excitement, power and intensity.  123000 people going crazy is quite impressive.  I was afraid to bet on him. I don' t want to jinx anything but I can't help believing he'll do the same at Belmont.  Can't wait!!!!

The stories are great and the analyzing is fun but I believe Chrome is more than his pedigree, his conformation, his calm, good sense - he stands alone.

20 May 2014 9:13 PM

As always, AMAZING Steve!  Thanks for the wonderful recap and the inside scoop that we cannot get anywhere else that helps make us all feel a part of this.  He is a wonderful horse and I truly believe he will be winning the Triple Crown.  Do you have an opinion on that that you would like to share?  As for the Preakness, Victor rode masterfully, every move was perfect and gave Chrome the chance to excel!  And as for his pedigree, to those who have been knocking it solely on the monetary worth of the sire and dam - you need to look a little further and you will see plenty of support for his greatness.  He is loaded, and with 4 crosses to one of the greatest triple crown race winning influences, Native Dancer, he is all set!!!!

20 May 2014 10:25 PM
John from Seattle

Steve - great words.  Thanks. Now on Wednesday President Obama will welcome the Seattle Seahawks to the White House as the greatest team in the NFL.

If California Chrome wins the Belmont - perhaps an invitation for the horse and his connections to the White House?

20 May 2014 10:33 PM
Mister Frisky

Now it gets interesting.All Chrome has to do is canter a mile and a half in 231 and change and it's his.The only danger I possibly see is Tonalist,espically if it rains which is a possibility.Its his to lose,just like the previous 2 races.

20 May 2014 11:34 PM
Steve Haskin

Once again, I thank everyone for their comments. Exciting 2 1/2 weeks coming up.

20 May 2014 11:46 PM

The gods surely must be crazy if this grand colt and his boon companions do not bring home the crown. But having said that ... win, lose or draw, heartfelt thanks to Junior and his family for allowing us along on their ride. It's been -- and may it long continue to be -- one helluva fun trip.  

21 May 2014 12:42 AM

Awesome writing Steve! Love the to hear the opinions and experiences of other trainers as well as the barn and backside info that's never available to the average fan. I believe California Chrome has the intangibles necessary to become the first Triple Crown winner in a long time. He has a tremendous foundation of races beneath him having raced a dozen times. He's in the hands of a smart horseman. Despite the media emphasizing his cheap sire and dam, Chrome has a truly outstanding pedigree. Go back a generation or two and it reads like a who's who list of the greatest sires and blue hen dams ever produced. Tremendous stamina and speed influences thru-out his pedigree. He's bred for 1 1/2 miles as well as or better than most I can recall in recent times. He breaks well from the gate and stays out of trouble. He has speed to track anyone and a sharp turn of foot when asked. He has a huge stride - 24 feet I think I heard, which is close to Secretariat. He floats over the track and is easy on himself. He seems to adapt well to many different racetracks. His running style is in line with most Belmont winners. He has gained weight and has been thriving with racing. He's a great looking horse too! I hope that Espinoza rides a smart race as I think the jockey doing something stupid is the only way this horse loses. I think he'd handle an off-track well. I could see him taking the lead down the backstretch and running a Secretariat type race. On a different note, I hope the connections of Social Inclusion give that talented runner a break or at least enter him in a spot to build confidence. They need to let his mind catch up to his athletic abilities. He does not have the foundation to handle the Belmont distance. Go Chrome - California Gold!

21 May 2014 7:51 AM
Rich P

Steve--Fabulous story about the workout with Harty's colt. I'd still like to know why Coburn and Martin selected the mare that they did and what convinced them to breed her to Lucky Pulpit. Many thanks.

21 May 2014 8:36 AM
Lise from Maine


Always love your articles, Steve.

I don't know about destiny, but they did work hard with California Chrome to get him where he is today.

It does take work but destiny makes a great story, and a great story gets some people very, very interested.

The horse racing industry needs this.

I believe that Churchill Downs should apologize, if true what Steve Coburn says, to Mr. Martin, the other owner of California Chrome. It's not good for business to have negative stories "flying" around.

Suggestion: Churchill Downs could offer all the owners of California Chrome some free tickets to other important races and treat them like "royalty," and this way would give Churchill Downs a chance to "make up" and get a second chance.

After all, I do believe in second chances.

Not sure yet who I am betting on.

All for now.

Lise from Maine

21 May 2014 8:55 AM

Here's  hoping for a good ride by the jock!  This race has a history of jocks making their move too soon, i.e. Smarty Jones.

21 May 2014 10:04 AM
Old Timer

Superb writing Steve. I hope that CC makes it happen! Anyone who has ever sat in Belmont's grandstand knows what a massive oval that track is. They don't call it the "Test of Champions" for nothing. So many have just missed over the last 36 years. Yet CC, with A P Indy as his Grandpa, has a Belmont winner in his genes. It would be wonderful for the sport and for all those people that you have mentioned if he comes through.

By the way you just missed calling a nice Preakness trifecta as General Arod only missed third by a head.

21 May 2014 12:22 PM
Old Timer

p.s. Steve-O, I hope that YOU will be writing his Thoroughbred Legends book!

21 May 2014 12:24 PM

What an incredible, but very credible and not that unusual! story for those of us who have been following the Triple Crown horses and their connections all these years... each one has there own aaahs and ooohs. Great!! It is what keeps the sport so thrilling to be a part of. One wish: Hope Chrome wakes up Saturday 7 feeling as good and wanting to win the race as we all do. It is up to him and only him, the rest is a process, but if he is the ONE, he only knows and we would be able to sense it that day, and prove us right or wrong! It is up to the Gods now. It feels right so far this time, and he has won in a very solid, classy, no buts manner his past two...only one to go, why not?  

21 May 2014 12:42 PM

The "humble" breeding etc. is a bit of an illusion.  His grandsires   have 52 and 56 dosage points. His grandmares  38 and 28 dosage points.  This horse is very well bred. The fact that they got him "on the cheap," is another issue.  But Chrome is very well bred!

21 May 2014 1:08 PM
Smoking Baby

What a treat Belmont Day should be.  

In addition to the big race, we get to see the Metropolitan Handicap with Palace Malice. As much as I disagree that Curlin is off to the fast start at stud most are saying, if you don't have Palace Malice on your shortlist of best horses in the country you simply have not been paying attention.

Add to that the Ogden Phipps with Beholder, Princess of Sylmar and Close Hatches and you have the makings of a phenominal day at the track.

Go Chromeo!

21 May 2014 2:29 PM

Steve:  You have done a great job of bringing the back stories of CC to all of your readers.  Those who are not involved in the game do not have a very good perspective of all that goes into achieving something like the dream that all of the connections with CC are living and you do a great job of helping them understand some of what is involved.  It is a hard life for those who make it happen and to be able to share their triumphs through your stories is wonderful.  Wish that more than those who read Blood-Horse could enjoy the perspective you bring.  Although I believe that the overall crop of three year old colts is weak, I certainly do not feel that way about CC. Best of luck to him and his connections. Many more than just the normal racing fans will be excited and will be watching.

21 May 2014 3:26 PM
Greg R

Many horses telegraph their readiness to run a huge race by acting "on the muscle," as horsemen say.  But California Chrome is so phlegmatic a horse that he doesn't give much away.  How will we be able to tell if he is progressing or regressing into the Belmont Stakes when he's always chilling?  The most he says is, "T'sup?"

I don't believe Steve Coburn is a true prophet, but I hope his hunch proves right.  Go, Junior.

21 May 2014 4:36 PM

Art Sherman is so very deserving of all this. I knew him from ( now history) Bay Meadows. It was never about the money, but the love of the horse. The horse always came first. Art told me once that if you stay around horses they will keep you young and he certainly is proving that.

21 May 2014 4:43 PM

As I read this story, I kept thinking that Mr. Haskin needs to turn this into a children's book.  It would captivate them as well as their parents.  He wrote it beautifully and had me mesmerized about this story that seems to keep growing,  And, as impatient as I can be, Mr. Haskin kept me through it to the end this story.  

21 May 2014 5:30 PM

Another tour de force from your pen, Steve. No one, and I mean NO ONE does it better. Thank you for your writing..and for being you.

21 May 2014 7:16 PM
Paula Higgins

A couple of things. I like both the owners of CC but I also wish that Churchill Downs had not been mentioned at the Preakness. It just wasn't the place to discuss it even if they have legitimate complaints (they may have, I don't know). I think in his happiness over winning the Preakness, what came up came out. They are not public people, used to speaking to the press etc. so I don't think we should hold it against them at all. But I do understand your point, Soldier Course.

My other comment is that I think they may need to look at changing the timing between the Triple Crown races if CC or Ride On Curlin don't win it. I am among those who think you should have to run in one of the other 2 Triple Crown races to be eligible to run in the Belmont. To come in totally fresh and not having run in either leg of the TC does not create a level playing field in my opinion. I know the purists will cringe, but that is how I feel.

21 May 2014 7:38 PM

Steve, you've done it---again.  You and this story are kismet.  It's like you were born to tell it.  This is the stuff which drew so many of us into the sport, and keeps us here. The cast of characters in this drama is incredible, their true stories stranger than fiction. I think what grabs me the most about them is that they are both dreamers and realists at the same time, perhaps a quality which comes to us if we live long enough, and don't let our dreams fly away. The words flow so freely from your heart to your hand.  There is no other explanation for how you work the magic which you do.  The next time someone knocks racing and asks why I feel so passionately about the sport, I should simply hand them this story.  Lead on!

21 May 2014 7:51 PM

The first time I saw Cali Chrome run was in the last stakes race at Hollywood Park on closing day last Dec.  I was impressed by the smoothness of his stride and economy of motion. He has displayed this same beautiful way of going in every race since.  I watched the short video of Cali Chrome jogging on the track at Belmont today, and was again struck by how "true" he travels.  Very seldom do you see a horse that doesn't deviate from straight forward in some manner, be it a little "wing" or a little "paddle". I believe this plays a large role in how Chrome is able to run in such an effortless fashion and why he is outrunning his pedigree.  I know many, Steve included, have delved deeply into Chrome's pedigree, and stated quite correctly, that there are a lot of great horses back there, but the further back in the pedigree, the less influence a particular horse has.  Think of it in terms of percentage.  The sire and dam contribute 50% each, the grandsire and granddam  contibute 25% each to the sire and dam, the 3rd generation 12.5% each to the 2nd generation, 4th 6.25%, etc. Secretariat is back in the 5th generation, which is 3.125%  The sum of all of the parts has certainly resulted in a wonderful specimen. Good training and conditioning has contributed as well and maybe something a little mysterious too.

21 May 2014 9:52 PM

California Chrome is bred very well but it took some real insight and dare we say genius to put together the bargain basement pricing that produced him.

Just looking at Lucky Pulpit, his sire, one immediately can see that you get a sire that for a bargain price

22 May 2014 12:55 AM

This is beautifully written Steve.  What a great story on so many levels.  I am so happy for the horse, for California Chrome.  And who can't love Art Sherman, I can just see Joe Peschi playing his part in the movie!  They even sound the same.  Love the horse, the connections, and the love Raul has for this horse!  It's all an incredible story.  And I'll be standing right there at Belmont on June 7th waiting in anticipation for the king of our sport finally to be crowned.  I am trying to not think about it, to not get over excited.  When all is said and done that day I hope the industry is saying, move over Affirmed, you've now got some more company next to you on that list!

We all know how hard the Belmont is to attain after winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown.  So far so good, arrival ok, nasal strips allowed, taking in the surroundings like usual.  Hopefully there are no 11th hour stakes barn maneuvers.  So unfortunate about Danza being taken out of the Belmont and sent to the farm.  Hope he is ok.  I had wanted so much to see Danza and for him to be CC's competition.  Now it's up to Samraat, Wicked Strong, and Ride On Curlin.

Mr.Cochran seems like he speaks straight from the heart and tells it like it is.  Perhaps there is some things Churchill needs to learn as far as hospitality goes.  If I am not mistaken didn't Steve and Lenny visit this issue about Mr. Rick Porter having issues with Churchill and the veterans being brought in when Normandy Invasion ran?  Perhaps there is a lesson in there for Churchill to learn.  And I think he did mention that his partner had business to attend to as well as reasoning for missing the Preakness.  CC's owners to me seem like good people.  When Mr. Cochran kissed CC it was so poignant.

As far as CC and Ride On Curlin talking it up at 4am in the barn and now being buddy/buddy, maybe it's best to keep those two rivals apart!!!!!!!  Imagine the conversations.................

22 May 2014 1:07 AM

(continued again, keep seending by accident)- Love the Chase, a bargain priced mare, that just happens to bring inbreeding bloodlines to Native Dancer and Northern Dancer, along with Numbered Account who equalled the Keeneland track record for 11/8th mile set by Round Table.

I wouldn't feel there is any breeding limitations to what California Chrome can accomplish. I fully expect him to win the Belmont and do it with the genes with which some very clever breeders were able to see when others couldn't.

22 May 2014 1:27 AM
Soldier Course


One year a few days before the running of the Kentucky Derby a well-known jockey made this comment to another jockey:

"This is not a good three-year-old year."

What year was he talking about?


Eddie Arcaro, talking with Ron Turcotte.

22 May 2014 2:00 PM
Ida Lee

God bless them all and keep all the athletes, both human and equine, safe and sound.

22 May 2014 6:36 PM
Mary McLeod

Thank you, Steve, for this masterpiece. Your description of the Preakness was as exciting as watching it. You are quite right: they are a cast of wonderful characters. I certainly hope that bright copper penny joins my Big Red, Seattle Slew, and all the others, and I hope Steve does not have a heart attack if he does.

Take care.

Mary in Boone

22 May 2014 7:24 PM

Maybe if Churchill didn't screw the horse player out of 2% more, The owners may not have said anything......THEY put THEMSELVES out there.....not the owners!

22 May 2014 7:40 PM


   Has it crossed your mind that this race could end up in a dead heat? He doesn't have to "win"....he just has to "not lose"!!!

   Something unusual is going to happen in this race because the last two races seemed to be too "textbook"!

22 May 2014 7:44 PM

I love the sign on the Marquee at Los Alamitos, "Home of California Chrome."

Belmont Park and Los Alamitos rockin' on June 7th!

Go Chrome!!!!!

22 May 2014 10:28 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

You are simply the best there is Steve. Nobody else even comes close. You are in a class of your own. Almost every article is a masterpiece and those that aren't are brilliant. Some are written with such style and insight and give so much joy to the reader as to be astonishing. Thank you for another incredible year. Go Chrome !!!!!!

22 May 2014 11:14 PM

Maybe I will be proven wrong about the quality of this group of 3 yo colts but I doubt it.  Time will tell and if I am proven wrong say I told you so!!!  We all have our opinions but my eyes don't lie. In the meantime let's just enjoy the California Chrome adventure.

23 May 2014 1:02 AM
food fight

My heart says CC and triple crown but my brain says 10-1 odds or better on Commissioner and that is just what the doctor ordered . This colt is sitting on a huge effort. Going back to his Gulfstream Park races he ran against huge speed bias in both of those stakes races and had to move prematurely in both races to try and stay close, then there was the Sunland Park derby and again another huge speed bias in which he closed to get 3rd no small feet with the wind that carried the front runners home all day.Next the Peter Pan over a sloppy racetrack at Belmont again he has to move prematurely because Tonalist hits the front before a half mile in that race. He looks like he could be off the board turning for home but continues to grind and is second best in the PP stakes. This sets him up for a huge effort in the Belmont he can sit and let CC and Tonalist do the heavy lifting and get rolling down the lane and grind them down at the wire . I love this colts chances at a huge price $20 or more key play of the day.  

23 May 2014 8:36 AM
Melissa P

To quote my own blog, “As the adage goes, 'A racehorse is an animal that can take several thousand people for a ride at the same time.' I sure am enjoying this ride. I’m praying that it takes all of us to the Winners’ Circle at Belmont Park on June 7; and California Chrome into the history books and his own slice of immortality."

23 May 2014 11:01 AM
Linda in Texas

Reading Steve's words then the follow ups by all the good people who post here is just entirely the greatest way to start a day or end one for that matter. Thank you Steve and thanks everybody else also.

23 May 2014 11:41 AM

food fight;  I understand your love of Commissioner because I love the AP Indy sons too.  But the very things you point out as reasons for his losses in prior races will likely keep him from the win at Belmont too.  You blame  his losses on having to move prematurely to stay in contention.  The Belmont has rarely been kind to true closers; history says a horse needs to be on or very near the lead at the quarter pole and I think several colts will be compromised in this race if they try to stay close enough to Chrome to have a chance to run him down after he makes his move.  So both my heart and my money are on Chrome to take it all.

Dr D; You were never negative about Chrome, merely skeptical, and I'm very glad you've become a convert.

Monica V; I believe it's you that asked "where is Draynay?" on another blog.  I too have taken notice of his absence since the Derby win.  I'm sure there would have been a comment had Chrome not followed up that incredible win with an equally incredible Preakness. Alas, as he was proved wrong, I guess he has nothing further to say.  Apparently, admitting he underestimated the talent of this colt is beyond him.  Or maybe his heart didn't survive the shock?  He's been silent on Facebook too.

24 May 2014 10:19 AM

Thank you Steve Haskins for your insight, self-efacing eloquence and inside information that make the stories of the  quest for the Triple Crown poignant and so very appealing to the public. From the owner's mystical confidence in his horse, to the trainers' embrace of a fellow competitor as a long-lost friend, to the horse's bond with his human caretakers and his calm, self-assured, innate desire to be the best, to his groom's and excercise rider's loyal care and training, to 71 year old Eddie Figureroa's possiblity of becoming a millionaire if Chrome wins the Belmont - all reasons for fans and critics alike to value this unique partnership between two very different species. Win or lose -and we are overwhelmingly for that win - we will value this year's quest as if it were for El Dorado itself.

"Where can it be this land of El Dorado?"

"Over the mountains of the moon in the Valley of the Shadow.

Ride, boldly ride!" the Shade replied,

If you search for El Dorado." Edgar Allen Poe

24 May 2014 12:20 PM
Soldier Course

The opossum episode is funny, but maybe there's something more there. Perhaps a message for The Chrome. I've been reading about opossum symbolism and learned that he brings a message of diversion and strategy. Something to think about on June 7th?

24 May 2014 6:24 PM
Bob Angelo

Again, Steve Sherman was never Steve Coburn's trainer.  Monty Meier was Coburn's trainer of choice.  Easy to look up in Equibase.

27 May 2014 9:40 AM

Incidentally, folks; anyone wondering where Draynay is hiding, he continues to bash California Chrome on Facebook.  He doesn't have the guts to show his pen here, but have no fear.  He still knows more than the rest of us.  Here are a few of his latest words of wisdom.  California Chrome only won the Derby and Preakness because he got perfect trips.  He's not even the best colt in California; that would be Shared Belief, who is faster.  Tonalist is the best 3-year old colt in America.

Dray; if by chance you are still lurking here, there have been times in the past I've been in complete agreement with you.  The sheer greatness of Rachel Alexandra comes to mind.  But honestly, if you can't yet appreciate what California Chrome has accomplished, you simply don't have the capacity to objectively appreciate a good horse.

31 May 2014 3:03 PM

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