California Chrome's Connections Also Dreamed of Breeders' Cup From the Start

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Throughout dual-classic winner California Chrome’s run through the Triple Crown races this season, Steve Coburn, the colt’s co-owner and co-breeder along with Perry Martin, talked about how they felt like they had a classic winner, and perhaps a Triple Crown winner, from the start.

California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) before finishing in a dead-heat for fourth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). While Coburn said they had Triple Crown dreams from the start, the partners also were thinking about the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for their foal.

There’s evidence of that early Breeders’ Cup dream. Perry Martin fully nominated California-bred California Chrome to the Breeders’ Cup, an extra investment of $500 (that also was the first year of a $100 deduction for registering online) for the first foal out of the Not For Love mare, Love the Chase.

Considering they had only $10,500 into the new foal as they paid $8,000 for Love the Chase and a $2,500 stud fee to send her to Lucky Pulpit, another $500 marked a sizeable commitment for the mare’s first foal. But that payment has proven wise. California Chrome is fully eligible for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) or any other Breeders’ Cup race this year--or any other year--the son of Lucky Pulpit races.

Back in training at Los Alamitos Racecourse, California Chrome’s next start has not been announced but two of the races being considered by Art Sherman are the Los Alamitos Mile Sept. 20 or the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) Sept 27 at Santa Anita Park, which is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race to the Classic.

Californian Chrome - Anne M. Eberhardt Photo

Opportunity for 3-year-olds

After an off-the-board finish by Palace Malice in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 2 at Saratoga Race Course and an unsettled handicap division on the West Coast, the Classic could be ripe for one of this year’s 3-year-olds. Leading the way at this point in terms of Classic possibilities are California Chrome, Belmont winner Tonalist, William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) winner Bayern, last year’s champion 2-year-old male Shared Belief, and Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) winner Wicked Strong.

Any of those top 3-year-olds or perhaps a party crasher will try to become the 10th 3-year-old to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will return to Santa Anita Park this season. California Chrome and Tonalist will try to join Sunday Silence, Unbridled, A.P. Indy, and Curlin as the only U.S. classic winners to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic in their 3-year-old season.

When Tiznow won the Classic in 2000, he was the seventh 3-year-old to win the race since its 1984 debut, but just two sophomores have won the race since then. Since 2001, the only U.S.-based 3-year-old to win the Classic is Curlin in 2007. European-based Raven’s Pass won the Classic in 2008 at age 3.

A look at how each of the 3-year-olds to win the Classic came into the race serves as reminder that sophomores have found Classic success after a wide variety of campaigns.

Raven’s Pass, 2008 at Santa Anita Park: Raven’s Pass entered off victories in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I) and the Totesport Celebration Mile Stakes (Eng-II) at Goodwood. All seven of his 2008 races in Europe before the Classic were at one mile on the turf. The 1 ¼-mile race on the then synthetic surface at Santa Anita marked the longest race of his career.

Curlin, 2007 at Monmouth Park: Like Unbridled and Sunday Silence, Curlin raced in all three legs of the Triple Crown in his 3-year-old season. The Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner received nearly a two-month rest after his narrow loss to Rags to Riches in the Belmont before coming back Aug. 5 with a third-place finish in the Haskell before a victory in the 1 ¼-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Sept. 29 at Belmont Park.

2007 Breeders' Cup Winner Curlin - Jeffrey Snyder Photo

Tiznow, 2000, Churchill Downs: As he didn’t win his first career race until May 31, Tiznow didn’t compete in the Triple Crown races. The son of Cee’s Tizzy prepared for the first of his two Breeders’ Cup Classic victories with a steady 3-year-old campaign. He raced eight times from April 22 to Oct. 15, defeating older horses in the Oct. 15 Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita before winning the Classic Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

Cat Thief, 1999, Gulfstream Park: Remarkably, in Cat Thief’s first 11 starts as a 3-year-old he failed to win a single stakes race. But his 12th start of the season proved to be a good time for his first stakes win of 1999 as he scored a clear victory in the Classic at Gulfstream Park. In the spring, the son of Storm Cat started in the Preakness and the Derby, where he finished third. He entered off a third in the Kentucky Cup Classic Handicap (gr. II) Sept. 25 at Turfway Park.

Concern, 1994, Churchill Downs: In the Triple Crown season, the only classic start for Concern was the Preakness, where he finished third. His first start against older horses came in the Classic but a season that saw the son of Broad Brush start 13 times before his Breeders' Cup Classic win gave him plenty of experience.

A.P. Indy, 1992, Gulfstream Park: After his clear victory in the Belmont Stakes, A.P. Indy didn’t start again until the Sept. 13 Molson Export Million Stakes (Can-II) where he finished off the board against other 3-year-olds. He then faced older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where he finished third, but three weeks later he would cap his career with the two-length Classic win. A.P. Indy is the only Belmont winner to win the Classic at age 3.

Unbridled, 1990, Belmont Park: Derby winner Unbridled closed out the Triple Crown season with a runner-up finish in the Preakness and a fourth in the Belmont. After more than two months rest, he would return with an allowance win at Arlington Park on Aug. 18 followed by two September starts: a runner-up finish in the Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) on the turf at Arlington and a second-place finish in the Super Derby.

Sunday Silence, 1989, Gulfstream Park: Like California Chrome, Sunday Silence won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. He then finished second to Easy Goer in the Belmont but would turn the tables on that rival in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. While Sunday Silence would return about six weeks after the Belmont with a runner-up finish in the Swaps Stakes (gr. II), he would then receive two months off before winning the Super Derby about five weeks before his Classic score.

1989 Breeders' Cup Classic Winner Sunday Silence - Tony Leonard Photo

Proud Truth, 1985, Aqueduct: Proud Truth had what amounted to a split season in 1985. Off the board in the Derby, he raced eight times in the winter and spring of his 3-year-old season, capped with a win in the May 26 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont. The son of Graustark didn’t race again until a pair of October wins, including a score in the 1 1/8-mile Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct just one week before the Classic there.

This week’s Challenge races

The schedule of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races emphasizes turf events this weekend with the Arlington Million Stakes (gr. IT) and the Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 16 at Arlington Park, which are “Win and You’re In” races for the Turf (gr. IT) and Filly and Mare Turf (gr. IT), respectively; as well as the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard Jacques le Marois (Fr-I) at Deauville, which awards a spot in the Mile (gr. IT).

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