Horse Racing

California Chrome Doesn't Need Triple Crown to Validate Accomplishments

Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to a victory during the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press
Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

Alright, alrightwe get it.

In theory, the only thing that truly makes a horse memorable, or at least legendary, in the sport of horse racing is winning the Triple Crown. Everyone remembers Secretariat, but nobody is really building statues of Mine That Bird, Super Saver and Orb, Kentucky Derby titles or not.

However, California Chrome doesn’t have to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed did so in 1978 to be remembered.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

California Chrome wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place. For one thing, California horses simply don’t walk into Churchill Downs and blow the rest of the field away in the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby, but California Chrome’s story goes beyond that.

Art Sherman became the oldest trainer to ever win the Run for the Roses at the ripe age of 77 years old. It was something of a Cinderella story, which was only fitting for a horse that came from a small, unheralded California racetrack without any of the hype that typically surrounds a dominant racer.

In fact, California Chrome was only a $10,000 investment for his team, and co-owner Steve Coburn discussed as much, via CBS News’ Carter Evans: "People spend millions and millions and millions of dollars buying horses, putting them through training, and have never done anything that we did, our first try."

Morry Gash/Associated Press

At one point, the owners were reportedly offered $6 million for California Chrome. Considering the small original investment, almost anyone would be forgiven for taking such a deal, but his team elected to hang on to the horse and their Kentucky Derby dreams.

Coburn would have none of it, via CBS News:

We would be in the shadows, after all of our blood sweat and tears, and Art Sherman, all of his blood, sweat and tears, and then take all the glory for something they had nothing to do with and basically getting rid of Art as a trainer. The answer was not only no but hell no.

It is easy to get caught up in California Chrome’s position as a dominant favorite heading to the Preakness and forget his rise to fame is actually one of those inspiring underdog stories that pop up so often in sports. 

Great tale or not, people are still interested in his chances at a Triple Crown. Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden doesn’t appear to like California Chrome’s odds:

He may have been slower than past winners, but his closing speed was on full display at Churchill Downs.

That is something he is going to need again in what promises to be a loaded Preakness field. Look for California Chrome to once again be in the middle of the pack heading to the final stretch and find away to turn on the jets for another victory.

If he does that, the hype surrounding horse racing will reach a level it hasn’t in quite some time. 

After all, nothing is more memorable than a Triple Crown, even if it isn’t necessary to cement California Chrome’s legacy as an underdog turned favorite.

 

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