By Claire Novak
California Chrome, a colt who was running against his fellow California-breds at the beginning of the season, soared through his conditions and emerged Horse of the Year as the annual Eclipse Awards were presented Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
The brilliant chestnut son of $2,500 stallion Lucky Pulpit ran a six-race win streak for trainer Art Sherman from Jan. 25—when he rolled by 5 1/2 lengths in the California Cup Derby—to May 17 when he aced the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) after taking the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) off victories in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and San Felipe Stakes (gr. II).
Rested briefly after a fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), California Chrome returned to prove himself at the end of the season. His gutsy third-place finish, beaten two necks in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) off only one race (a sixth in the grade II Pennsylvania Derby) in almost six months, plus his impressive victory in the grade I Hollywood Derby in his grass debut, gave him a complete resume that stretched from the beginning of January to Nov. 29.
By winning the Hollywood Derby, the California-bred became the first Kentucky Derby winner to win a grade I stakes after the Breeders’ Cup and the second Derby winner to win a grade I stakes on the grass that same year. The only other horse to accomplish that feat was Secretariat.
California Chrome, bred by owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn out of the $8,000 claimer Love the Chase, was one of those rare horses who transcended the sport to put his name and the names of his connections on the lips of people all over the country and onto headlines of major newspapers and TV sports reports. Awarded racing’s highest honor, the flashy chestnut carries on as racing’s newest glamour star.
Additional reporting by Steve Haskin