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BALTIMORE (AP) -- It gets even harder from here on out for California Chrome.
He won easily in his home state of California, he dazzled in the Kentucky Derby and he dug deep to win the Preakness on Saturday.
Now comes the toughest test of all, the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.
The chestnut colt with four white feet will attempt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, something that hasn't been done since Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 12 horses have won the first two legs and failed to complete the sweep in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont; the last was I'll Have Another, who was scratched on the eve of the Belmont two years ago.
"You have to have a very good horse to win these three races," said Art Sherman, the winning 77-year-old trainer. "I'm hoping I've got one right now."
Maybe the horse with the modest pedigree and average Joe owners is the one.
California Chrome defeated Ride On Curlin by 1 1/2 lengths in the Preakness, covering 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.84 on a sunny and cool day at Pimlico.
He's now won six straight races. The streak started with four in a row in California by a combined 24 1/4 lengths. Then California Chrome coasted home in the Derby by 1 3/4 lengths after opening up a big lead in the stretch. The margin dwindled in the Preakness as he fought off multiple challengers.
California Chrome's co-owner Steve Coburn shed tears after his colt crossed the finish line, dabbing them away with a blue-and-white bandanna.
"I don't mean to be bold or cocky or arrogant," Coburn said. "I saw this baby when he was a day old, I told my wife, `Carolyn, this horse is going to do something big. I don't know what it is, but we're going to stay in the game to make sure this colt gets to be the best that he can be.'"
Quite a statement from a guy with a one-horse stable.
Coburn and partner Perry Martin bred an $8,000 mare to a $2,500 stallion to produce California Chrome. Based on the colt's humble breeding, he probably shouldn't be on the verge of making history.
His mother, named Love the Chase, won just one race.
The owners were long shots to get this far, too.
Coburn and Martin named their operation DAP Racing, which stands for Dumb Ass Partners. Their silks include an image of a donkey. Coburn and Perry who live on each side of the California-Nevada border get up early for their jobs - Coburn working as a press operator and Martin running a lab that tests high-reliability equipment.
"We just hope that this horse is letting America know that the little guy can win," Coburn said.
Sent off as the overwhelming 1-2 favorite by a record crowd of 123,469, California Chrome bounced out of the gate running, with jockey Victor Espinoza moving the colt into the clear. Pablo Del Monte, a 34-1 shot, charged to the lead and was soon joined by filly Ria Antonia.
Espinoza tucked California Chrome into third, an ideal spot behind the leaders. They stayed there until making their move approaching the final turn.
"I had to move early today," Espinoza said. "I had to start moving at the half-mile pole, which is tough for a horse to start moving early and keep going all the way to the end. California Chrome proved he can move."
California Chrome went for the lead, catching Pablo Del Monte while Social Inclusion joined the chase. Pablo Del Monte soon dropped back along the rail, and California Chrome sprinted away from Social Inclusion at the top of the stretch.
But there was one more challenge to come.
Ride On Curlin, next-to-last in the 10-horse field, ranged up and briefly appeared ready to overtake California Chrome. Once again showing his class, California Chrome denied the threat.
"It's an awesome feeling," Espinoza said. "Today it was just a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. I see another horse go to the front. I was going to sit second. ... I sit back, as soon as the other horse got clear of me, it worked out perfect."
California Chrome paid $3, $3 and $2.40. Ride On Curlin returned $5.60 and $3.80, while Social Inclusion was another 6 1/2 lengths back in third and paid $3.40 as the 5-1 second choice.
General a Rod was fourth, followed by Ring Weekend, Pablo Del Monte, Dynamic Impact, Kid Cruz, Bayern and Ria Antonia.
Espinoza will get another crack at trying to complete the Triple Crown, after missing with War Emblem in 2002. He finished eighth in the Belmont that year.
"You have to be a super horse to win," the jockey said. "Hopefully, California Chrome comes back good, and he's the one that hopefully can do it."
Bob Baffert trained War Emblem, one of his three Triple tries that ended in failure. He missed with Silver Charm in 1997 and again the following year with Real Quiet, who lost the Belmont by a nose.
"California Chrome is something. He's a cool customer," Baffert said after the race. "He does everything right. He's fast enough to stay out of trouble."
Secretariat is still the #1 horse in history. I loved watching that horse.
Those who are attempting to follow the so-called "elite" in horse racing have NO idea what sort of thrill is involved in watching, putting your money-where-your-mouth-is, and enjoying either the "thrill of victory" or the "agony of defeat" if the racing world. To those who do not "grow up" with this entrancement, the whole "shebang" seems pointless. One part is the (a) love of the thoroughbred horse (or horses in general), (b) one part the "cleverness" of so-called bettting strategy, and the other (c) the wonderful trifecfta of horse-rider-trainer that make certain human-animal contact/ so superlative in a world where human kind is so separated from "the lesser animals". If only we could see such cooperation: human-to human-to human!California CHrome and Espinoza share a secret for planned cooperation that the rest of us simply do not understand. And they ain't telling.
wish I had said this feel the same way may repeat at sometime will give you credit
I am a Kentuckian who loves California Chrome, and the story of him and his owners is heartwarming. Love them all, and wishing him a Triple Crown win, and Belmont too! Go California Crown!
I am so excited...............I hope we have another Triple Crown winner in CALIFORNIA CHROME. I love the horse, I love the jockey, I love the owners and their story, I love the colors and 3 is my lucky number!!!! All bets are on California Chrome!!
What a great race today as well as two weeks ago at the Kentucky Derby! Way to go California Chrome! I'm rooting for you to win the triple crown!
I hope he goes all the way.
I used to love watching horse racing, however there is such an ugly underside to the sport (that I think really got worse over the past 30 years or so) I can't watch anymore . First of all these horses are only 2-3 years old, really young for this physical exertion b/c they don't fully develop physically til after 4 years or more. Then there's the assembly line overbreeding and many of the horses are sold to slaughter. The training is cruel, loading the horses with drugs and supplements that make them crazy and overexert their bodies unnaturally. Then a lot of the racehorses also end up in slaughterhouses, a terrifying end to these beautiful companion animals who are sensitive and smart, and can't handle the road to slaughter like cattle. Let us hope that C. Chrome doesn't meet that fate one day. Money always seem to lead to evil, takes the honor out of the sport.
Social Inclusion, very cool name. Go Chrome, you $10,000 loser. How cool is this story? Hollywood, line up.
He is not racing against any of his great grandsires, Secretariat, Slew or War Admiral. And yes, Secretariat was THE best of all time, but he was an anomaly with an abnormal heart twice the size of normal, which was why he was able to be the massive locomotive that he was, never to be repeated. However, like Secretariat, Chrome is able to find gears in the stretch while others are fading. He won the Preakness with a cough and throat blister, an hopefully those will be gone in 3 weeks. I am the owner of a 1/2 brother of Smarty Jones and a FIRST grandson of the great Slew. I was an agent out of Ocala, and I KNOW my thoroughbreds, and Chrome doesn't know how much it cost to make him, he just wants to be in front. Prayers out for a safe and successful race as always.
I am a bit confused why the media keeps saying California Chrome has no breeding, and why people are putting him down compared to Secretariat when Chrome is Secretariat's 4X great grandson. California Chrome does HAVE good breeding. On his Sire's side ... 3X Great grandsire is Seattle Slew (Triple Crown Winner in 1977), Also his 4X Great grandsire is Secretrariat (Triple crown Winner 1973) His 6X Great grandsire is Bold Ruler.On the Dam side his 3X Great Grandsire is Northern Dancer. I know is Dam and Sire where not big racers but he does have some impressive relations :-). I am jut keeping my fingers crossed that he has what it takes for the Belmont! 2 of his Grand sires did!
...........CC is a good horse. However, all horses will be compared to Secretariat most consider to be the greatest. When CC or any other horse can match the records set by "Big Red" they will be viewed, comparably.
I can understand that! I grew up 8 miles from The Meadows here in VA where Secretariat was born. He is deeply loved and honored here.
If people do that they lose sight of the fact that Secretariat, as other horses called great, is one of the greatest, and also one of the most promoted, most recently by Walt Disney. That was drama mixed with facts as Hollywood always is. Granted, there was far more fact than fiction for those witnessing Secretariat race, but there was also so Hollywood fiction. Seattle Slew ran physically handicapped with a right hoof positioned outward. He went into the Triple Crown undefeated and won the Triple Crown - the only horse to do so. Both Secretariat and Slew took Belmont by 5 lengths, Slew did that in his maiden race. The word great is primarily subjective to the preferences of each individual. Affirmed was one of the most underrated Triple Crown winners.How many people discussing race horsing remember Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Citation, Seattle Slew or Affirmed? All Triple Crown winners. There is more to horse racing than records.
And War Admiral more than a few times on both sides of the pedigree which goes back to Man o'War, also fathering Warrior Lassie. I could not understand it either calling Chrome's pedigree mediocre. Far from it. He has more than a few of those called greatest horses in history behind him, and Nasrullah is one of them fathering Bold Ruler, father of Secretariat and further back fathering Bold Ruler fathering Boldnesian fathering Bold Reasoning fathering Seattle Slew. Then there are the mothers of the Triple Crown winner for necessary consideration. Certainly not the only horses - male and female - fathered by Nasrullah or Man o'War appearing in Chrome's pedigree. Certainly not the only horses called great horses appearing in Chrome's pedigree also running behind Secretariat and Slew. Those horses were also behind Triple Crown winners beyond Secretariat and Slew including Affirmed.
It would be wonderful if this horse wins the triple! I'll be in his corner in 3 weeks.