California Chrome’s Win Validates Owners’ Confidence

By Nicole Russo
A Kentucky Derby victory is awfully hard to top as a birthday present. But Steve Coburn, who turned 61 on Saturday, has his sights set even higher with California Chrome, the 3-year-old colt he co-bred and co-owns with Perry Martin.

“I believe this horse will win the Triple Crown,” Coburn said.

“It’s an incredible, incredible journey that we’ve been on,” Coburn said. “To see all this happen for my partner Perry Martin and our wives and families, to see this dream come true that we have put so much blood, sweat, and tears into, our savings, our retirements into this horse, and see this horse win the Kentucky Derby – I have no words. I really have no words.”

Steve and Carolyn Coburn, who now live in Topaz Lake, Nev., and Perry and Denis Martin, who live in Yuba City, Calif., first met when Steve and Perry owned small shares in several horses through the California-based Blinkers On Racing syndicate.

One of their runners was Love the Chase, a Maryland-bred daughter of Not For Love whose biggest victory came in an $8,000 claiming race. In 2010, they bred her to Lucky Pulpit – a stakes-winning son of Pulpit who stands at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif. His fee was $2,500 at the time.

Four years later, that inexpensive mating has resulted in a classic-winning colt that the partners famously turned down a $6 million offer for a 51 percent share of.

“It wasn’t tough for us to say no, because we knew within our souls what kind of horse we had,” Coburn said. “Because we’ve seen him grow up, we’ve seen him achieve these things. We’ve seen him get hit across the nose and still lose a race by only two lengths. We’ve seen him jump the gate and still only lose a race by only two lengths. We knew we had something special.”

If lightning can strike twice, the Martins and Perrys may have something special, indeed. Love the Chase delivered a full sister to California Chrome last year, and another this year.

First, though, the fillies’ big brother will eye the Preakness Stakes in two weeks, as he bids to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

“I’m speaking for both my partner and myself when I say that this has been a long hard road, but we’ve been blessed,” Martin said.