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HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

New Golden Era of Racing, Part Two: California Chrome

California Chrome Melanie_DWC 615 X 400
Photo: Melanie Martines


When American Pharoah galloped into history and, like the first rainfall at the end of a long drought, became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, racing fans got a taste of “the good ol’ days.” But when he crossed the wire for the final time when he captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland, fans had to wonder how long they would have to wait to witness another all-time great.


It turns out that they would not have to wait long; in fact, they had already witnessed the making of a couple greats at that very Breeders’ Cup. As American Pharoah retired to stallion duty at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud, he left the door open for a number of Thoroughbreds to continue what appears to be the modern golden era of American horse racing.


Although American Pharoah accomplished the feat for which the racing world had been waiting nearly 40 years, he was not the first all-time great the sport has witnessed in recent years. The twelfth Triple Crown winner came on the heels of the likes of Curlin, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and Wise Dan. Though all of these horses, American Pharoah included, are now enjoying retirement, this new golden age lives on.


Through the first eight months of 2016, a number of horses have contributed to a brilliant year of racing already. In this brief, new series, I will feature these horses individually and separately – the ones that have the potential to be considered all-time greats, or that have even already reached that status.


Part Two: California Chrome


Before there was American Pharoah, there was California Chrome. The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is as good as ever, having become the richest North American racehorse of all-time with a win in this year’s Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). The California bred showed promise as a two-year-old, winning a pair of state restricted stakes, but did not find his best stride until he hit the age of three.


Prior to the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome won the first three races of his sophomore season – including the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) – by a combined 18 lengths. He did not disappoint as the Derby favorite, taking the Run for the Roses by 1 ¾ lengths, before taking the second leg of the Triple Crown in the Preakness. He failed to sweep the Triple Crown in the Belmont with a fourth place finish, and was again off the board in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II). But after a solid third place effort – beaten less than a length – in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), he returned to his winning ways with a win in the Hollywood Derby (gr. I) on the turf. With that grade one victory at the end of the year, California Chrome clinched the 2014 Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and Three-Year-Old Male.


California Chrome returned as a four-year-old with a runner-up effort in the San Antonio Invitational Stakes (gr. II) before shipping overseas to finish second in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (gr. I). He was sent to England for a chance to compete at Royal Ascot, but instead was sidelined for the remainder of the year due to a bruised cannon bone. Shortly thereafter, the 30% share of California Chrome that belonged to controversial owner Steve Coburn was purchased by Taylor Made Farm, where the chestnut was sent for rest and rehabilitation.


The 2014 Horse of the Year returned to the races in January of 2016 and has been unstoppable ever since. After winning the San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, California Chrome returned to Dubai, where he romped in a handicap in preparation for the Dubai World Cup. Next out, in a career-defining race, California Chrome easily won the Dubai World Cup in track record time against international rivals despite a slipped saddle.


Mostly recently, California Chrome made his first U.S. start since his Dubai win, taking on dual grade one winner Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II). Displaying every ounce of grit and heart he has, he battled Dortmund down the stretch to win by a half-length in the fastest time since the 1999 edition of the race.


California Chrome has now surpassed two-time Horse of the Year Curlin as the richest North American racehorse of all-time, currently boasting earnings of $12,652,650. He has won on every surface – dirt, turf, and synthetic – and is a grade one winner on two (dirt and turf). Among his five grade one wins are three of the world’s most important races: two Triple Crown races and the Dubai World Cup. With the way California Chrome has been performing, he is sure to only add to his historic credentials.

 

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About Mary Cage

 

Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and is currently interning at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 


In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.


Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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