California Chrome the Horse - horse dispatch

California Chrome Horse

10 Interesting Facts About California Chrome (Stats, FAQs, & Pictures)

California Chrome is a horse that had humble beginnings but didn’t let that stop him. Soon, he was taking the racing world by storm and had a meteoric rise to success. Just like a pop star, California Chrome amassed a group of fans that dubbed themselves “Chromies”. 

He was born on February 18, 2011. He was born in California– hence his name– at Harris Farms. He is a beautiful chestnut, with a white blaze and four white socks. These also helped to influence his name, along with his place of birth. His career began in his home state of California, where he quickly proved his aptitude for competitive racing.

Below, we will go over some interesting facts about California Chrome that you may not be aware of, as well as the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this racehorse.

1. California Chrome Was the First Foal Bred by His Owners

Interestingly, this prize-winning racehorse was not the product of expert breeders with a long history in animal husbandry. No, California Chrome was actually the first foal that his owners bred– how lucky that they were able to rear such a high-quality and talented horse!

Steve Coburn and Perry Martin were first-time breeders who bought Love the Chase for $8,000. Love the Chase was a mare who had one win to her name and had only run six times in her competitive career.

When they (Steve Coburn and Perry Martin) bought Love the Chase, the pair overheard a groom who didn’t agree with their choice of horse. It was dubbed a “dumbass move”, since he didn’t think that Love the Chase was a good pick. This overheard slight inspired Coburn and Martin to name their partnership DAP Racing, which was short for “Dumb Ass Partners”. At least they had a sense of humor about it– and once California Chrome was racing, Coburn and Martin truly had the last laugh!

First, Love the Chase was sent off to be bred with Redattore. However, this breeding was unsuccessful. Instead, Coburn and Martin went on to try and breed their mare with a stallion known as Lucky Pulpit. The stallion had breathing problems and had only won 3 of 22 starts. This meant that Lucky Pulpit had a low stud fee, though.

When it came to the birth of California Chrome, it was not easy for the mare. Love the Chase, unfortunately, had to deal with more than one setback during labor, and afterwards, she needed a lot of medical attention. Art Sherman, who was California Chrome’s handler, believes that all of his handling at a young age is what really contributed to giving him the demeanor of a champion.  

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2. His Nickname Used to be Junior

California Chrome was, at first, simply nicknamed Junior. This is because he had a strong resemblance to his sire, Lucky Pulpit, after birth. The nickname endured until he was officially named– which we will go into more detail about below! But he was no Jr when he won the Santa Anita Derby in 2014.

3. His Names Was Chosen by a Waitress

Most tracing horses have unusual and unique names, and California Chrome is certainly not an exception to this rule! So, how exactly did Coburn and Martin come up with his name? The business partners, with the help of their wives, chose the horse’s name back in 2013, 2 years after he was born. The group was eating at Brewsters Bar & Grill, which is located in Galt, California. They all put their name ideas on paper and put them inside Coburn’s cowboy hat. 

Their waitress was the one who drew the winning name from the cowboy hat! What a cool story she has to tell. The winning name, of course, was California Chrome, and it was Coburn’s name idea. The choice having been made, the business partners then sent the name to the Jockey Club, where it was accepted. 

4. California Chrome Almost Won the Triple Crown

California Chrome had a fantastic 3-year-old season. This was where he was able to really show off his natural talent and skill for racing, after a strong start as a 2-year-old the season before. As a 3-year-old, California Chrome was able to win 6 out of his 9 starts. He was able to enter the Kentucky Derby with an undefeated record in that season, and he took the Kentucky Derby in what was his first race outside of his home state of California!

Two weeks after being the Kentucky Derby winner, California Chrome went on to win the Preakness Stakes. This made him the only California Thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby as well as the Preakness Stakes– he was setting records and making history even early into his racing career! Coburn said that, after his victory, California Chrome, the Kentucky Derby horse, had become “America’s Horse”.

After winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, California Chrome was now a contender for the Triple Crown! Before the Belmont Stakes, he went through some solid workouts at Belmont Park. This gave Coburn and Martin hope that he might be able to win the final, upcoming leg of the Triple Crown. 

On the day of his race, however, Victor Espinoza– his jockey– said that California Chrome seemed a bit off. Unfortunately, this affected how he raced, and he was not able to take home a win. Instead, he finished in fourth place. 

Later on, they found out through video replay that the horse that was beside California Chrome at the starting gate had stepped on his heel. This injury was believed to have contributed to his unfortunate loss. It took a piece of tissue out and also caused a minor cut to the tendon. Luckily, though, it was only a minor injury and was able to heal– it did not end his racing career like some larger injuries might. 

5. At 77, His Trainer Became the Oldest Person to Win the Kentucky Derby

Art Sherman was the person who trained California Chrome during his racing career. He had a great resume and lots of experience in the industry. Sherman started out as an exercise jockey, receiving his jockey license in 1957. It wasn’t until 1979 that he began training horses instead. 

Sherman implements old-school training methods with the horses, which Coburn and Martin liked. In fact, this is why they hired him over other trainers to work with California Chrome. These methods obviously work, because Sherman has over 2,200 race wins from his training career! Sherman also works alongside his sons, Alan and Steve, with the horses. Alan assisted his father with California Chrome and handled much of the horse’s daily care. 

When California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby in 2014, Sherman was 77. This made him the oldest person to have won this race. 

6. He Has Won Abroad

The success that California Chrome has experienced is not only limited to races in the USA! He has also won abroad. In the year 2015, he left the country for the first time to compete. This brought him to the 2015 Dubai World Cup. He finished second in the race, behind an Irish-bred horse called Prince Bishop. Next, he went to England to compete in the prestigious Royal Ascot. Unfortunately, he was not able to compete and had to return to America– he was suffering from a bruised hoof that was draining pus. Luckily, he made a full recovery from that once he was back in the states!

2015 was slated to be California Chrome’s last racing year. He was all set to retire and go stand stud instead. However, things changed when Coburn sold his interest in the horse to Taylor Made Farm. This opened up avenues for California Chrome to continue racing in 2016. And race he did! He went back to Dubai in 2016 as a 5-year-old. There, he was able to take home first place in both the Dubai World Cup and the Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy. 

7. California Chrome Was the 2014 and 2016 Horse of the Year

California Chrome had a very successful racing career. Due to this, he won the title of American Horse of the Year not once, but twice! The years that he won were 2014 and 2016. In these years, he also won the title of California-bred Horse of the Year as well. 

Some of the other awards he won include the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NRTA) Moment of the Year, in the years of 2014 and 2016. The city of Fresno even declared October 11, 2014, to be “California Chrome Day”.

Being horse of the year and having your own race (California chrome stakes) was not just some honor, it was incredibly special. Not all horses get to be horse of the year, and not all horses are in the Kentucky Derby museum. It was quite a thing.

8. California Chrome is the Fourth Highest Earning Racehorse of All-Time

After California Chrome won the Dubai World Cup in 2016, he was able to beat Curlin– who was the previous record holder– to officially become the highest-earning racehorse in all of North America!

He raked in $14,752,650 in earnings over his career and currently stands at fourth place for the highest-paid racehorse of all time. It is Arrowgate who currently has the top spot. He has $17,422,600 in earnings to date.

9. He Retired in 2017 and Went on to Begin a Breeding Career

California Chrome had a great racing career throughout his years as a racehorse. It was in 2017 that he finally retired, after racing just one time in the Pegasus World Cup– where, shockingly, he came in ninth place. This was unusual and entirely unexpected. 

Of course, after the race, a vet inspection was conducted, which discovered that California Chrome had fluid on his right knee. There was no injury to his bone, but he was mildly lame. This is why they decided to retire him then and turn to a career in breeding. After all, with his stats, many breeders would be interested in his DNA!

His stud fee began at $40,000, and he was exclusively residing at Taylor Made Farms in Kentucky. Taylor Made brokered a deal shortly after his breeding career began with Sullivan Bloodstock– this meant that he would split his time between Kentucky and Chile. He travelled to Chile in July in order to stand at the Sumaya stud and then went back to Kentucky for the breeding season. 

10. California Chrome Currently Stands at Stud in Japan

These days, you can actually find California Chrome in Japan! He really has been able to make his way around the world. It was in 2019 that the California Chrome syndicate– which has 50 members– sold the horse to the JS Company of Japan. Ever since 2019, California Chrome has lived in Japan, where he continues his breeding career.

Part of the agreement between the syndicate and the JS Company is that the California Chrome syndicate has the right of refusal if the JS Company ever tries to sell the stallion. Also, once California Chrome retires from breeding, he is to be returned to Taylor Made Farms to live out the rest of his retirement in peace. Martin is still involved in the stallion’s breeding career at stud.

Has California Chrome Sired Any Winners?

Yes, California Chrome has been the sire of a few winners. His first winner is Sunkar Time, who won a race in Russia– at the Krasnodar Racetrack– back on July 18, 2020. Cilla is his first American winner and won at Delaware Park on August 13. 2020. 

Decade is another one of the winners that was sired by California Chrome. Decade was the winner that won the Maiden Special Weight at Churchill Downs on August 9, 2020. In addition, Decade also won the Allowance Optimal Claiming at Oaklawn Park on April 29, 2021. Of course, California Chrome only began to breed a few years ago, so we do expect to see him siring many more winners in the coming future!

Is California Chrome Related to Secretariat?

Secretariat is another very well-known horse, and you may be wondering whether or not California Chrome is able to attribute some of his success to the genetics of this stallion. He was so legendary that even those who are not familiar with horse racing or are not equestrians know his name, and there are movies about him and his story, too! Well, if you were wondering if California Chrome had any links to the larger-than-life Secretariat, you would be correct!

Their link is diluted, but they are related all the same. California Chrome is related to Secretariat on his sire’s side of his genealogy. Secretariat is California Chrome’s great great great dam grandsire. What a mouthful! However, Secretariat is not the only legendary horse or Triple Crown winner that California Chrome is related to. Seattle Slew is another Triple Crown winner, and he is California Chrome’s great-great grandsire. 

California Chrome also has some great genetics on his dam’s side. The Kentucky Derby-winning Northern Dancer can be found in his lineage from this side as well. With all of these storied racehorses as relatives, it is pretty clear to see why California Chrome was able to find so much success! He is certainly deserving of his pedigree.

Who Was California Chrome’s Jockey?

As you may very well know if you are a follower of horse racing, a good jockey can be crucial to the success of a racehorse. If you do not know what a jockey is, the jockey is a horse’s rider, who trains and races with the horse. Jockeys are often small and lightweight so that they can come in under the weight limitations of a race. Being a jockey is a very serious vocation. So, who is the jockey that took California Chrome throughout his illustrious racing career?

California Chrome has had more than one jockey over the years that he was racing. His first jockey was Alberto Delgado, who raced with him for his first season– his 2-year-old season. After this, it was a jockey by the name of Victor Espinoza who took over and worked with California Chrome. 

Espinoza was born in Mexico. He remained with California Chrome for the remainder of the stallion’s racing career. Espinoza also won the 2015 Triple Crown with American Pharoah, and he has over 3,200 career wins as a jockey– certainly no small feat!

How Tall is California Chrome?

Whether you use the metric system or the imperial system, measuring horses is different! Instead, English-speaking countries measure horses in hands, which is a system that actually originated in Ancient Egypt– it is a similar idea to the measurement of feet in the imperial system. The horse is measured from the ground up to the highest point on the withers– not from the ground up to the top of their head, as one may assume! 

So, now you may be wondering, how tall is California Chrome, anyway? California Chrome is 16 hands tall. Typically, the height of most adult horses ranges from between 14 and 16 hands.