California Chrome's Triple Crown Run Could Lift Sport to New Heights

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMay 17, 2014

Garry Jones/Associated Press

Any serious run at a Triple Crown would be a boon for horse racing. To see a horse actually accomplish the feat would be an even bigger boost.

Having a horse like California Chrome as the primary focus would only take things to another level. The second piece of the developing story takes place on Saturday at the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland.

It's hard to find something to dislike about California Chrome, his trainer or jockey.

People love sports, but perhaps one of the things that they love even more is a good story and likable characters.

That's exactly what California Chrome, Art Sherman and Victor Espinoza collectively provide.

Started From the Bottom, Now He's Here

Garry Jones/Associated Press

In the high-stakes world of horse racing, horses are recognized and bred for the biggest races, on the biggest stages early on.

Pedigree is very important—at least that's what most experts would say. California Chrome's emergence may go against conventional thinking.

Andrew Beyer of The Washington Post writes:

"Based on pedigree, California Chrome was more likely to wind up at a track like Charles Town than on the biggest stage in American racing."

Looking at the specifics of California Chrome's immediate descendants to add detail, Beyer says his sire Lucky Pulpit went to stud for $2,500. The lone win for California Chrome's mare, Love the Chase, was in a lower-stakes race.

Uncredited/Associated Press

Pedigree Query does show that legendary horses—and Triple Crown winners—Seattle Slew and Secretariat are in California Chrome's bloodline.

But there are so many generations separating them from the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner, it's easy to dismiss.

Apparently the horse is a bit of a throwback.

The Everyman

Nothing about Sherman's exterior says he's a big-time trainer. In fact, his demeanor says the exact opposite. That's part of what makes him so endearing.

At 77 years old, Sherman has already become the oldest trainer to win a Kentucky Derby.

He'll be looking to add a similar distinction if California Chrome can emerge victorious at Pimlico on Saturday.

Obviously Sherman isn't new to the game. In fact, his Equibase profile shows he's had great success in his career as a trainer.

He's earned over $38 million dollars in his role.  His career has included 2,190 first-place finishes. But none would be bigger than a victorious run for California Chrome on Saturday—at least until we have this same conversation before the Belmont Stakes.

Riding For a Cause

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 01:  Art Sherman, trainer of Kentucky Derby contender California Chrome, watches from the barn area during early morning workouts at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Sometimes jockeys can fly under the radar. However, when they have had the amount of success that Espinoza has, they begin to generate a larger blip.

Aside from winning the Kentucky Derby earlier this month, the 41-year-old also won the 2002 Preakness Stakes aboard War Emblem.

Espinoza rides for a living like every other jockey, but he shares a portion of his earnings for a cause that is close to his heart.

Per Bill Dwyre of The Los Angeles Times, Espinoza said this at a press conference after riding California Chrome to victory at the Kentucky Derby:

I just want to mention one thing. I've always been for all the cancer people. I support that. One day, I went to the City of Hope [hospital]. All the kids, they have cancer. I can't go there. Really, like I cry. Since that time, I donated 10% of my earnings for all the kids that have cancer. It makes me cry to see all the kids that can't even have a life like we have.

Unless there's money involved, tell me you're not rooting for California Chrome on Saturday.

If he wins again and keeps his Triple Crown hopes alive, just watch as another wave of fans becomes enthralled with the stories and appeal of every player on his team.