A win at the Belmont Stakes in downstate New York today would complete the fairy tale year being lived out by California Chrome and his owners.
Steve Coburn of Nevada and Perry Martin of California paid $8,000 in 2009 for a female horse named Love the Chase, prompting a critic to remark that only a “dumb ass” would buy her. Mr. Coburn and Mr. Martin, who consider themselves to be everyday joes, took the comment in stride by forming Dumb Ass Partners (DAP) Racing. They opted to breed Love the Chase after a few races in 2009, and she foaled California Chrome two years later.
After California Chrome won the Santa Anita Derby earlier this year, many people started to take notice. Fans of the horse became known as Chromies. Then came the Kentucky Derby on May 3; excitement was building around California Chrome, but some racing insiders dismissed his chances due to his breeding and training.
But California Chrome won the Derby in spite of the naysayers, and then he won the Preakness Stakes on May 17. No one is questioning the wisdom of the horse’s owners any longer.
The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. Racing fans have been anxiously awaiting a break in this 36-year drought.
People from the north country had a real stake in seeing a Triple Crown winner in 2003 when Funny Cide, a New York-bred horse owned by residents of Sackets Harbor, came close. He was the last horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness; he came in third at Belmont that year. Four members of the Sackets Six gathered in Sackets Harbor last year during the Kentucky Derby to reminisce about Funny Cide’s achievements a decade earlier.
Many people will be pulling for California Chrome to nab the victory this afternoon at Belmont Park. We’ve all become Chromies, in a sense. There is something so thrilling about watching these majestic animals race for the finish line that makes these must-see events.
California Chrome’s working class origins and non-Kentucky pedigree have captured people’s imagination. We wish him and his owners, trainers and scores of fans the best of luck as he makes his dash for the history books later today.