The 140th Kentucky Derby took place at Churchill Downs this past weekend. Before the race, many of the veteran horsemen doubted California Chrome's potential, even though he was the favorite to win the race.
The veteran horsemen had their doubts because California Chrome hadn't raced on a big stage outside of California. They also couldn't get over his unremarkable pedigree.
California Chrome was the offspring of supposedly a “worthless mare.” Steve Coburn and Perry Martin bought Love That Chase, California Chrome's mother, for $8,000 at a sale. Someone at the sale said that “only a dumb ass” would spend $8,000 for Love That Chase, who won only one of six career starts. The quote gave Coburn and Martin the idea for their partnership name “Dumbass Partners,” abbreviated as “DAP.”
Coburn had a premonition about California Chrome three weeks before he was born.
“I said, 'I believe it's going to be a big chestnut colt,'” Coburn said in an interview with the Washington Post. “We drove over, saw him the day after he was born. [My wife] walked up to that birthing stall, said, 'Come here, this is your dream.' We held onto that dream. I've said it a hundred times or a thousand times, you got a dream, if you're willing to ride the dream out, they will come true for you. We're living proof of it.”
Veteran horsemen also doubted California Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman, 77, who became the oldest trainer in the history of the Kentucky Derby to win.
“He gave me the biggest thrill of my life,” Sherman said. “At this stage of my life, what else could I want?”
Sherman hadn't been to the Kentucky Derby in 59 years. The last time he paid a visit to Churchill Downs was in 1955 as a stable hand for the champion Swaps when he was 18 years old.
Before the race, rival trainer Dale Romans was one who doubted California Chrome.
“I was very, very wrong,” Romans said. “We might have just seen a super horse and a super trainer. You don't fake your way to the winner's circle at the Kentucky Derby.”
“I said our horse would win the Kentucky Derby, and when he wins, I believe this horse will win the Triple Crown,” Coburn said. “I told people, I said this colt will go down in history because he's going to be the first California-bred [horse] to win the Triple Crown.”
However, the Triple Crown hasn't been won since 1978 when Affirmed achieved the near-impossible feat.
“If I shed a tear, just bear with me,” Coburn said. “This colt [California Chrome] was born on my sister Brenda's birthday. She died of cancer at the age of 36. It will be 36 years this year since there's been a Triple Crown. That's where we're going.”
To win the Triple Crown, a horse and its trainer must win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
The 139th Preakness Stakes is May 17. The 146th Belmont Stakes is June 7.
Only time will tell if California Chrome can pull off the near impossible.