California Chrome Meets Mr. Peabody

 If California Chrome were on Facebook, here are some comments you might be reading, and I don’t mean all those human run Facebook pages. I mean comments from the real thing. Well, so to speak.


OK, I bowed out for almost an entire year to give the stage I once shined upon to American Pharoah in order to let history run its course. I had my chance at immortality but it was not meant to be. It seems the racing gods were waiting for Pharoah all along. But now with my younger colleague off to stud I have returned to claim my rightful place on racing’s most exalted throne. It was so great to be back at the friendly confines of Santa Anita bounding merrily along to victory in the San Pasqual Stakes to the rousing applause from my loyal legion of fans, who thank goodness did not forget me after finding the new love of their life in my absence.”


I have been to the deserts of Dubai and worked over the gallops on the English countryside. To say that was an abrupt change in my life would be a gross understatement. For those ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ fans, you can appreciate this. Remember the genius dog Mr. Peabody who had a pet boy named Sherman? We’ll, you’re looking at a horse who also has a pet named Sherman. In fact, I have two pets both named Sherman, and I have to admit I missed the heck out of them while I was in England. Through all those early days clawing my way out of Cal-bred races and onto the Kentucky Derby trail and through those wondrous five weeks of the Triple Crown when I ruled the racing world, building up a passionate multitude of fans across the country, many of whom called themselves ‘Chromies,’ I could always count on my two Shermans to do and say the right thing and be by my side.

“Do you have any idea what it was like listening to my older Sherman’s distinct high-pitched voice and infectious laugh since I was a youngster and then all of a sudden I’m hearing nothing but proper British accents? It was enough to confuse anyone. My fans in the States were aghast at this bizarre turn of events. It had reached a point where my story had become another offbeat feature from Rocky and Bullwinkle, called ‘Fractured Fairy Tales,’ which provided crazy twists to fairy tales. Was my fairy tale really fractured? Was the magic gone? Would I never see my friends again?

“All the while I was in England and then back home in the States, all I heard about was American Pharoah and what an iconic hero he had become and the history he had written. I had to wonder if my one-time ardent fans had forgotten about me and the magical ride we went on together only the year before. It was so special to be back in action at home after 9 1/2 months and finding out they had not forgotten me at all. As I prepare to return to Dubai for another crack at the World Cup, by way of a prep race, I now feel as if the torch I had passed to American Pharoah has been passed back to me, which is certainly something you don’t see too often. I even have a new wardrobe. No more purple and green, a demented-looking donkey, and Dumb Ass Partners. Now it’s just classy and subtle apparel with nothing but the word ‘Chrome’ adorning it.”


“Do people remember just how far I’ve come in this world, being born in California from non-descript parents and having a pretty tough time of it from the minute I was born? It was not an easy birth. My mother had lacerated the wall of her uterus and couldn’t be re-bred that year. She was bright and active and outwardly unaffected by the ordeal, but she and I had to remain confined to the stall for an extended period of time while my mother was treated and recovering.

I became pretty independent early on and developed the personality you see now. I wasn’t able to be out with the others to socialize and carry on, so I was a little more focused on people than I was on horses. Once I got out and adapted I was able to adjust fine. My farm manager always said I was pretty impetuous, and as I grew and showed I could run, he could see that my story had the possibility of being a ‘movie in the making’ and would one day ‘rejuvenate the interest and enthusiasm in racing and make Cal-breds significant again.’ He was always very perceptive.

”My trainer on the farm was amazed how sound I was and how much class I displayed. I never had a temperature, never got sick, and never even had a pimple on me the entire time I was on the farm. Most of all, everyone was impressed by how much I enjoyed training and loved being out on the track every morning. When I finally left the farm and adopted my two Shermans, all I kept hearing about was how the older Sherman once traveled on a train from California to Louisville with legendary Kentucky Derby winner Swaps, who was one of my heroes growing up in the fields of California. Now here I was almost 60 years later taking Sherman back to Louisville. You can’t make this up. I even let him run off on his own each day to talk to the press while the younger Sherman kept me company.” 


I’ll never forget the day my two Shermans realized just what they had on their hands. One morning at Hollywood Park, younger Sherman was looking for a horse to work a half-mile in company with me. That would help him determine how fast and competitive I 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 as well.

”Harty went to the frontside to watch the work, while younger Sherman 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 was determined to make sure he was in for a surprise, especially after overhearing Harty say to his rider, ‘Good, we’ll beat the tar out of this Cal-bred.’

”Well, that’s not quite how it worked out. I ran circles around his colt, and afterward I could hear Harty say to younger Sherman, ‘I don’t know what you’ve got there, but that is a very good colt.’

“I must have really impressed him because he wasn’t through. He went on to say to someone, ‘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.’

“I had never seen younger Sherman so excited. He said, ‘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. Our magical journey was about to begin.”


And how can we forget the dream my minority owner Steve Coburn had before I was born, and all the melodrama that followed him right through his ill-timed comments following the Belmont Stakes.
“My father, as you recall, was worth a mere $2,500 a cover, and my mother had raced for an $8,000 claiming tag. Nevertheless, Mr. Coburn had a dream that I would be a big chestnut with four white socks and a big blaze face. As it’s been told to me, when he and his wife came to see me after I was born, his wife walked over to my stall, took a look inside, and told her husband to come over and see me. There I was – the colt in his dreams. He and my main owner, Perry Martin, clung to that dream for three years, even turning down millions of dollars for half-interest in me. Now that’s a fairy tale even Rocky and Bullwinkle’s writers couldn’t fracture. Or so I thought. I hadn’t counted on Mr. Coburn’s now infamous outburst on national TV following my defeat. But in many ways, I could feel his agony.

“Here was a man who had come to a gut-wrenching and shocking revelation – the guardian angel he said was watching over me since birth either did not exist or had abandoned me. And considering that guardian angel was his deceased sister, it had to come as a crushing blow to everything he believed in. That ethereal connection that had kept his sister a major part of my success suddenly was gone, and that is tough for anyone to accept. I also saw a man who was forced to come to the realization that the horse he was convinced was unbeatable was indeed beatable. But he hadn’t seen the back of my hoof all ripped off and bloody as I walked back to the barn after getting clipped badly by another horse that many felt didn’t even belong in the race.

“I still don’t know why the racing gods allowed that to happen. Perhaps they already had their eye on a 2-year-old colt by Pioneerof the Nile they had seen work like a terror at the McKathan Brothers farm in Ocala and decreed that he and not I would be the next horse to sweep the Triple Crown and enter racing’s pantheon.

“Oh, well, that’s life. Mr. Coburn no longer is part of mine. I have moved on and am looking forward to another memorable year at age 5 with my beloved Sherman and Sherman by my side again. Everything is Taylor Made for a big year, and the way it began in the San Pasqual, so far so good. See you all in Dubai, and then, unlike last year, back home again. The fairy tale continues.”

Mr. Peabody (right) and Sherman

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