Kentucky Derby Favorite California Chrome Owes Success To Valley Roots
It’s every horse owners' dreams. A fairy tale come true.
A modest and agile colt with four white feet and a giant white blaze on his chestnut face born in the San Joaquin Valley is now the favorite in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Just a month ago at the Santa Anita Derby, California Chrome dominated the field.
That win in Southern California is just the latest chapter in a remarkable story that has its roots in Fresno County. David McGlothlin, gave me a tour of where it all began, at the Harris Farms in western Fresno County.
"He’s a product of the Valley. His entire life up until going to southern California was here in the Valley. He’s Valley green," McGlothlin says.
McGlothlin is the horse division manager at Harris Farms.
The three-year-old colt’s exceptional tale started in the womb of Love the Chase. California Chrome’s owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin bred the $8,000 mare to the stallion Lucky Pulpit for a modest fee of $2,500. This was the first breeding the novice pair had ever undertaken.
We first visit Lucky Pulpit—who is now the most popular stallion in California.
"He always gets carrots when he sees me so he always comes over. He’s a very professional horse in the breeding shed which is very important. He’ll cover 124 mares this year. So he’s very popular and a very busy guy,” McGlothlin says.
His stud fee has now increased to $10,000 per breeding.
We then take a stroll a few minutes away, and visit Love the Chase and Chrome’s yearling sister.
"At an early age they all stay close to mothers. As they grow they become more independent. He was very inquisitive so he was always out looking for something."
Harris Ranch trainer Per Antonsen started working with California Chrome when the colt was about 20 months old.
"He was an athlete all the time. Everything came very easy to him. He was a very smart horse and did everything right all the time. And that's really all you can ask. When they go to the track and they start running that's really when you find out how good they're going to be," Antonsen says.
Ever since he started working with him, California Chrome outperformed his pedigree.
"When the owners came by I always told them ‘Hey I think you guys are going to have a lot of fun with this horse' and they sure are," Antonsen chuckles.
McGlothlin says he never imagined they would breed a Kentucky Derby favorite.
As for the horse’s name, McGlothlin says it could have been something quite different.
“The owners all submitted one name, they had a lunch in all submitted one name on a slip and had the waitress came by and pulled the name out of the hat. California Chrome was the name that came out.”
If California Chrome wins tomorrow's Derby he would become the first horse from the Gold State to accomplish the feat since Decidedly in 1962.