CALIFORNIA CHROME: THE UNLIKELY CHAMPION
A message to horse lovers and dreamers out there: This will not happen to you. Well, almost certainly not.
For all the buzz CALIFORNIA CHROME's feel-good run at the Triple Crown is generating for horse racing, his too-good-to-be-true story has virtually no chance of repeating itself, according to the numbers.
The horse that will line up at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday is the product of an unspectacular mare and an equally unheralded stallion, bred in a state not known for producing winners and owned by a couple of racing outsiders (Steve Coburn and Perry Martin) who were labeled "dumb asses" for even pondering such a thing; thus the name of their racing stable: DAP (dumb ass partners).
Byron Rogers, whose business is scientifically analyzing genetic makeup of racehorses, puts odds at 50,000-to-1 against a horse with the strength and the stamina of a CALIFORNIA CHROME ever showing up again among the 21,000 or so thoroughbred foals born each year. It's the sort of horse that shows up maybe once every three years, but even then doesn't always find his way into the spotlight because success requires a magic mix of the right owner, trainer and opportunity.
CALIFORNIA CHROME was born at well-respected Harris Farms in Coalinga, California, and trained by longtime horseman Art Sherman, the 77-year-old who returned to the big-time nearly six decades after going to the Kentucky Derby as an exercise rider for SWAPS, who won the 1955 Kentucky Derby.
"This horse had everything go his way," Rogers said. "He had just about perfect genetics. Art Sherman is a very good trainer. Harris Farms is a good farm. You couldn't predict any of this at the start with this horse." In fact, Rogers says, if CALIFORNIA CHROME's parents were paired again, odds are only about one out of 10 their offspring would make it to a stakes race.
It's a reality that horsemen on the lower end of the sport, which is where CALIFORNIA CHROME's owners once lived, are in touch with every day. Most aren't in it to reach the big time, only to break even with their expenses. It's all about luck and timing, where the Kentucky Derby is a distant dream for almost every man and horse. Every year, horsemen alike hope that, at some point and time, you might be the one to lead a horse into the paddock on Breeder's Cup day or Kentucky Derby day.
The odds, even when the bloodlines are much more refined than CALIFORNIA CHROME's, are very much against it. Between only about 3.5% of thoroughbreds born each year are good enough to run in a stakes race. Only 20 can make it to the starting line at the Kentucky Derby. Still, when owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin decided to buy an undistinguished filly, LOVE THE CHASE, for $8,000 a few years ago and breed her to an equally ordinary stallion standing in California named LUCKY PULPIT, they knew they were buying into a fairy tale, the likes of which almost never end like this.
While horsemen appreciate what CALIFORNIA CHROME could do for their sport, they recognize the one-in-a-million nature of the whole thing. The goal is that they make money to maintain themselves; to enjoy the horses and have them do what they were bred for. It gives some people at the bottom end of the commercial market some hope that there is an ability for them to have a good racehorse, It tells them it doesn't have to go to (trainer) Todd Pletcher and be raised in Kentucky and have all these other things that trend in favor of other horses.
Many who keeps tabs on the breeding market, say CALIFORNIA CHROME's success could produce an uptick in breeders in the colt's home state, much the way the success of Pennsylvania-bred SMARTY JONES 10 years ago fueled the horse business in his home state.
In either case with all the cards stacked against him in terms of genetics, racing connections... this is the story of the unlikely champion, CALIFORNIA CHROME - winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness en-route to the Belmont Stakes possibly making some unlikely history of his own!
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|Category:||U.S. & Canadian Flat Racing|