Besides celebrating the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ, a few other things happened on December 25. The people spoke, a champion was crowned, and a star continues to shine in the world of Thoroughbred horse racing.

Following a record turnout in the fan balloting for the Vox Populi, or “voice of the people” award created by famed Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, California Chrome was recognized for his brilliance on and off the racetrack in 2014. With eyes on creating more awareness for the sport through fan involvement, the forward-thinking Ms. Chenery has given the people the vote in deciding who they think is the best in a given year. The award is not based solely by on-track performance as it also considers impact as well. With that in mind, it is no wonder that the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning California bred was chosen.

Beginning the year as just another horse with dreams of getting to the first Saturday in May, California Chrome captured the heart of the sporting world with his fairy tale-like story. The brothers Grimm could not have scripted his meteoric rise any better. Literally the horse of his owner’s dreams and with a trainer that served as the exercise rider for one of the four California-breds (Swaps 1955) to win the Kentucky Derby, Chrome was a shining light. This son of Lucky Pulpit may have come up short in his Triple Crown chase at the Belmont, but he returned courageously and just missed winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic before finishing his year with a win in his first ever race on grass at the Hollywood Derby. The other nominees (Wise Dan, Shared Belief, Untapable, Ben’s Cat, Game On Dude) for the Vox Populi had fine years, but none carried the torch the way California Chrome did in 2014.

“This really is an honor because this award represents the voice of the fans,” says Chrome owner Steve Coburn. “We have always said he was the peoples horse and this proves it. Yes he is a bit of a show-boater, but the fans love him for that. They have named him as their champion and no matter what else happens he will be our champion and our hero.”

Winning the Vox Populi award was great news for Coburn and his partner Perry Martin, but prior to that DAP racing had bestowed a gift to the sporting world. In announcing California Chrome will put his stallion career on hold for a return to the racetrack, fans nation-wide were thrilled. The decision placed Chrome firmly in the minds of many and may have played a part in the large turnout for the ballot box.

“We felt like we needed to do it for the fans,” says Coburn. “He has developed a very large fan base and we think it is important for the sport to keep him on the track. The fans chose him as their champion and now we hope he can reward them with many more fine performances.”

The San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on February 7 is currently on Chrome’s radar and his connections will receive the Vox Populi Award on January 10 at Santa Anita.

California Chrome is looking toward a 2015 campaign as the peoples champion (photo by Ann Hoffman)

California Chrome is looking toward a 2015 campaign as the peoples champion (photo by Ann Hoffman)