The favorite never wins at the Kentucky Derby, right?
Whoops. California Chrome entered Churchill Downs last Saturday the runaway favorite after winning four races in a row by more than 24 lengths. In layman's terms, he was winning by a significant amount. But still, it was easy to think he could get lost in the 19-horse shuffle.
Alas, it was more of the same for California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza, as the duo actually pulled off the gas in the closing moments because they were ahead by such a large amount.
As a result, the duo and owners Steve and Carolyn Coburn and Perry and Denise Martin took home the top financial prize of all.
|First||California Chrome||Steve and Carolyn Coburn & Perry and Denise Martin||Victor Espinoza||$1,442,800|
|Second||Commanding Curve||West Point Thoroughbreds||Shaun Bridgmohan||$400,000|
|Third||Danza||Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners||Joe Bravo||$200,000|
|Fourth||Wicked Strong||Centennial Farms||James A. Jerkens||$100,000|
|Fifth||Samraat||My Meadowview Farm||Jose Ortiz||$60,000|
Look no further for proof of the sheer dominance orchestrated by California Chrome and Espinoza when it mattered most:
That's quite the financial haul for a horse with such humble beginnings. California Chrome rests in stark contrast to the rest of the typical Derby field, where thoroughbred horses are backed by folks with rather deep pockets.
No, the partnership between Perry and Steve cost just $8,000 under the name Dumb Ass Partners. Those two, along with 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman, hit the proverbial jackpot with California Chrome and now have a legitimate shot at a Triple Crown—a feat that has not been accomplished since 1978.
For Sherman, his historic career now has a new highlight, and one that can be furthered in subsequent races in pursuit of the Triple Crown:
Art Sherman on California Chrome: “He gave me the biggest thrill I ever had in my life.” #KyDerby— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 3, 2014
Suffice it to say, the investment paid off for the owners, as Bloomberg's Adam Johnson notes:
Congrats #CaliforniaChrome. Owners bought you're mom for $10k against the odds, breed her to $2,500 stallion, now you're 140th Derby champ— Adam Johnson (@AJInsight) May 3, 2014
Of course, $400,000 for a long shot isn't a bad deal, either. That would be the case for Commanding Curve and West Point Thoroughbreds, as they entered the Derby severe underdogs and overcame early adversity in the middle of the pack to put on a late run worthy of a second-place finish.
Danza and Wicked Strong entered as favorites, but it's hard to complain about $200,000 and $100,000, respectively.
For Wicked Strong, the race and final result had a deeper meaning. Centennial Farms owner Don Little Jr. took his beloved colt down a touching path in order to help support those impacted by the Boston Marathon bombing, as explained by NESN:
Little was inspired to rename his horse to something that represented the resilience of the city. His first choice was “Boston Strong,” but that name already was taken by another horse, so he came up with another moniker that captured the city’s unique and enduring spirit: Wicked Strong. Additionally, Centennial Farms decided to donate 1 percent of the horse’s winnings to The One Fund Boston, which supports the bombing victims and their families. To date, Wicked Strong has raised approximately $7,000, and that number could increase greatly in the near future. Little has pledged to donate 5 percent of the horse’s winnings during the Triple Crown series.
That fourth-place finish is a big deal for Little and Co., and like California Chrome, Wicked Strong has plenty left in the tank with major races on the horizon.
All things considered, the Kentucky Derby once again proved why it is a lucrative endeavor for all involved, although the crossroads between sports and real life hit an awe-inspiring intersection thanks to Wicked Strong.
Perhaps best of all, as is the case every year, the Derby is just the beginning.