CHROME SHINES BRIGHT ON BIG STAGE
Let’s just start by stating the facts. California Chrome is shining as bright as any star in the sporting world. His Pacific Classic performance at Del Mar on August 20 reminded us all just how fantastic he truly is for many reasons.
Perhaps the greatest thing about California Chrome is his ability to overcome. It began before the 2014 Kentucky Derby when he found his stride in his final race as a two-year old. Going against the odds, this California-bred caught fire and took the world’s most famous race. He then capped a six race winning streak with a Preakness victory and ended the year with a grade 1 win on grass. After injuring himself at four while taking his show to Dubai and England, it looked like it might be the end of the line for the modestly bred colt. But then time and a return home made all things good again. As a mere $10,000 investment, this son of Lucky Pulpit is currently riding a five race winning streak that has saw his career earnings swell to over $13 million.
“I was really worried when I saw him after the injury,” says trainer Art Sherman of his prized runner. “I think he may have been a little home sick too. You know these horses are no different than any other athletes. Familiar surroundings can always make you feel better and once we got him home, the folks at Taylor Made Farm did a great job getting him healthy again. I think now he is better than ever.”
The fact Chrome has gotten brighter with age is another reason to recognize his greatness. Winning the Kentucky Derby is arguably one of the toughest feats in any sport. Many horses, like other athletes, do not continue to move forward with age. As Chrome has matured, his talent has seemed to grow.
“I think his confidence has grown along with his ability on the track,” says Sherman. “His experience has given him this air about himself when he walks into the paddock before a race. He knows what is about to happen and he gets his game face on. This is a really intelligent horse. Sometimes I think he’s smarter than me.”
“He knows he’s good,” adds assistant trainer Alan Sherman. “Confidence in yourself is the key for any athlete and he has plenty of that for sure.”
If there was any doubt about Chrome’s confidence, that was laid to rest in the Pacific Classic. Facing one of the biggest on-track challenges of his 23 race career, a salty field lined up to deny the Golden State’s namesake in its richest annual race. Three-time Eclipse award winner and defending Pacific Classic champ Beholder led a field that also featured grade 1 winners Dortmund, Hoppertunity, and Hard Aces. Breaking from the rail and the undesirable post 1, California Chrome shot to the lead and never looked back. In dominating fashion, he led gate to wire with hooves barely touching the Del Mar dirt. Proving to be much the best, Chrome cruised to an easy win in the mile and a quarter distance.
“I felt pretty confident going in because we knew he was right,” says Art Sherman. “At the 3/8 pole I knew it was over. He was moving so good I knew nobody was going to get by him. He is one of those push button horses that can just go. He is just Chrome being Chrome, what I else can I say.”
Sherman may have known at the before the stretch run what the outcome was going to be, but jockey Victor Espinoza had an idea even sooner.
“I felt really good going into the gates with him and then after he broke so well, I felt even better,” jokes Espinoza. ”The last part of the race I really didn’t have to do anything, he just took it from there. That may have been his greatest performance ever. It was a lot of fun to give all the fans such a show. I am not sure we have gotten to the bottom of him yet and I am not sure we know how really great he is just yet.”
The Pacific Classic performance may have just told us all a little something about how bright California Chrome is right now.
“He is the horse of a lifetime,” says his 79-year old conditioner. “You can be in this business your whole life and never get one like him. California Chrome is the greatest horse in the world.”