Now that the Triple Crown chase is but a distant memory, folks far and wide must realize more glory awaits our horsey heroes. With a variety of big-time battles still on the 2014 slate, some may be wondering if the most recognizable runner in the sport today will continue to shine?
California Chrome captured the hearts of many with his thundering runs to the winner’s circle in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. A majestic warrior with a certain air about him, Chrome represented everything good. From underdog beginnings, his white-socked feet had carried this gleaming chestnut colt to the brink of immortality. As a real hero of horse-racing, his explosive runs through the stretch had provided even the hardest of hearts with a case of chicken skin as he made things look all-too easy.
But, alas the Belmont Stakes came and dashed were the dreams of Triple Crown glory. Excuses about jockey ride and a cut sustained early in the race have been popular talk, but perhaps it was the very piece of equipment his handlers fought for that led to Chrome’s demise. The nasal strip that had to be approved by New York stewards is designed to open the passageways and allow more air in the lungs. Others have used the strip like I’ll Have Another when he won both the Derby and Preakness in 2012 before injury scratched him from the Belmont making the strip a proven commodity. So when Chrome was boxed in at the rail heading down the backstretch and he had dirt flying in his face, did breathing in more of Big Sandy (Belmont Park’s track nickname because of it’s makeup) derail the dynamics of that normally explosive move at the top of the stretch? Like how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop…the world may never know.
Regardless of what happened in the Belmont Stakes, California Chrome has proven he is one of the top Thoroughbreds in the world. The law of large numbers tells us that even Joe DiMaggio struck out on occasion. Long “winning “streaks are hard to accomplish in any sport and Chrome had been rather dominant in winning 6 races in a row. The ease with which he won tells us all just how good he really is. Those that are special can at times look unspectacular because they are in fact…spectacular.
The grueling nature of California Chrome’s run at the record books has taken a toll on the athlete for sure. Now it is time to see if he can regroup and get back to running like the mighty machine he was in races like the Santa Anita Derby. Peaks and valleys are a part of competition and it is up to trainer Art Sherman to coach his colt back up the mountain. Running against other three-year olds is a challenge, but racing against older horses is swimming in deep water. The Breeders’ Cup Classic is a goal for team Chrome and a great one indeed. People may think of the Kentucky Derby winner as the best runner in the world, but in truth, the Classic winner is the one drinking from horse racing’s holy grail.
Fact is, the last time a Kentucky Derby winner won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year was 1990. Unbridled stormed to glory for trainer Carl Nafzger and defeated 13 rivals. In fairness to some of the Derby heroes, they never got the chance to run in the Cup as ownership groups whisked them away to the bigger money at the breeding shed before the Classic was run in early November. Running against the best in the world is a risk not only because of the injury factor but the stallion stands a bit taller if he has one less loss on his resume. He does not have to measure up if nobody breaks out the ruler.
After this current freshening period, the Chrome people claim he will make a run at Breeders’ Cup glory. After that, the racetrack will probably never see him again, but they do want to give him an opportunity to solidify himself as truly great. Winning the Classic in today’s racing world would catapult California Chrome way up the ladder for sure. Facing off against the likes of Game On Dude, Palace Malice, Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge, and others makes for a big challenge, but that kind of opportunity is exactly what this hero needs to prove his worth.
The 2014 Breeders’ Cup is being run at Santa Anita, which certainly bodes well for the hometown hero. In 4 lifetime starts at the great race place, California Chrome has 3 wins with all of the victories coming in this year. No doubt he likes the track and he should be fresh going in. Can he end the drought for Derby winners at the Cup as he brought rain for California-breds in Kentucky ( 1962 was last Cal-bred Derby winner)?…The stage is set for Chrome to shine again.
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