2014 Kentucky Derby Hopeful: California Chrome

April 06, 2014 10:15am
California Chrome tunnel 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire - Alex Evers


Just a few days out from Christmas, citizens across the nation prepared for the holiday, reuniting with family, watching classic holiday movies, embellishing homes with festive decorations, wrapping gifts, and preparing traditional meals. The air was full of joy and anticipation; after all, it was “the most wonderful time of the year.” But on the evening of December 22, 2014, racing fans felt anything but joy.

It was the final day of racing at Hollywood Park, a track that had housed the names of an abundance of great Thoroughbreds, including Affirmed, Citation, Seabiscuit, and Zenyatta. Despite the seventy-five years of fine racing that had taken place at Hollywood Park, the doors would forever close to the Inglewood, California track. Hundreds of stakes races had been held at the track in its rich history, including the inaugural Breeders’ Cup World Championships and seventy-four editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup, but at 5:39 PM on December 22, California Chrome – a stunning chestnut colt conditioned by veteran trainer Art Sherman – galloped to an impressive victory in the final stakes race ever held at Hollywood, the King Glorious Stakes. Now, a month out from the Kentucky Derby, the colt that captured Hollywood’s final stakes race looks to conquer America’s greatest stakes race.

Racing Performances

Coincidentally, California Chrome’s career began at Hollywood Park when he finished a good second in a four and one-half-furlong California-bred maiden special weight in late April. Three weeks later, he returned in a race of the same conditions, pressing the pace before drawing off to win by 2 ¾ lengths.

This victory gave his connections enough confidence to enter him in stakes company a month later when he took on open company for the first time in the five and one-half-furlong William L. Proctor Memorial Stakes at Hollywood. Dueling for the lead throughout, California Chrome could not keep up with his competition and faded to fifth.

The colt returned to his winning ways in his next start, which came at Del Mar at the end of July. Returning to state-bred company but remaining in a black-type race, California Chrome would yet again be traveling five and one-half furlongs in the Graduation Stakes. After sitting off the pace, the flashy chestnut drew clear down the lane to score by a margin of 2 ¾ lengths.

California Chrome then reached the toughest test of his career. Making a significant jump from state-bred stakes to grade one company, California Chrome stretched out to seven furlongs in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) in early September. With a slightly rough trip, Steven Coburn and Perry Martin’s homebred could manage no better than sixth, but was only beaten by just over two lengths.

On Breeders’ Cup Friday, California Chrome made his dirt debut and a return to state-bred company when he competed in the Golden State Juvenile Stakes going one mile at Santa Anita. But after a poor start, California Chrome never showed the kick he needed and again finished sixth, this time beaten by a little over three lengths.

Between November 1 and December 22, California Chrome became a different horse. On the final day of racing at Hollywood Park, California Chrome went to post in the racetrack’s last stakes race ever run, the King Glorious Stakes for Cal-breds. Going seven furlongs on Hollywood’s cushion track, California Chrome raced just off the leaders, maintaining a position in fourth while remaining a few paths off the rail. Around the far turn, he inched closer to the pacesetters while taking the outside route. Suddenly, he engulfed the leaders and swept to the lead outside the quarter pole, kicking clear at the top of the stretch as he galloped down the lane in a breathtakingly powerful manner to score by 6 ¼ lengths.

California Chrome returned to Santa Anita a month later for his sophomore debut, again taking on state-bred adversaries in the California Cup Derby. Traveling a mile and one-sixteenth for the first time, the blaze-faced chestnut sat off the pace to the outside, racing in third throughout. As the leader, longshot Better Bet, faded around the far turn, California Chrome took the chance to swoop to the lead, swallowing his remaining rivals in the same manner he had in the King Glorious. In what appeared to be nearly identical to his previous race, California Chrome strode away effortlessly en route to a powerful 5 ½-length victory.

This quickly became a trademark for California Chrome. Returning to not only open company, but graded stakes company next out in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, California Chrome was sent off as the favorite, but faced the likes of Sham Stakes (gr. III) winner Midnight Hawk and Sham runner-up Kristo. This proved to be no issue for him, however. Breaking like a rocket out of the gate, California Chrome contested the pace with Midnight Hawk and those two remained rather even throughout until – in typical California Chrome fashion – the Art Sherman trainee began to draw away around the far turn before kicking clear at the top of the stretch as he powered home to a 7 ¼-length triumph.

But the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) a month later would be the true test of the colt’s ability to be one of the top Derby contenders. The nine-furlong distance of the historic prep race would be the longest California Chrome had yet competed at, and he was facing the talented Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) winner Candy Boy and the promising Rebel Stakes (gr. II) winner Hoppertunity. However, neither of these factors proved to be even the slightest problem. Although he broke more slowly than normal and thus found himself in close quarters in the early stages of the race, he easily found a stalking position in second, where he remained no more than one length behind longshot Dublin Up at any point. As usual, California Chrome seized the lead around the far turn and accelerated powerfully as he led the field into the homestretch, drawing off to win by 5 ¼ lengths. The final time of 1:47.52 made it the fastest running of the Santa Anita Derby since Indian Charlie in 1998.

Pedigree Analysis

No California-bred has won the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962, but California Chrome will look to put an end to that trend. But it is not only history running against him; his pedigree appears to be more focused on speed and short distances than stamina and classic distances.

California Chrome’s sire, Lucky Pulpit, never won beyond five and one-half furlongs and as a sire, he has produced primarily sprinters like himself. He is the sire of Rousing Sermon, a multiple stakes winner who has won up to a mile and one-sixteenth. Rousing Sermon finished eighth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, but made a good rally and galloped out well, outrunning his odds and pedigree. However, Lucky Pulpit’s other stakes winners – Gatheratthealter and Luckarack – are sprinters. Nonetheless, Rousing Sermon and another one of Lucky Pulpit’s sons, Woodmans Luck (who, ironically, won the absolute final race at Hollywood Park), have placed in nine-furlong stakes.

Lucky Pulpit is a son of Pulpit, who produced many distance horses, including the Russian group one winner Baletmeister, who won at 2,000 (ten furlongs) and 2,400 meters (twelve furlongs) on several occasions; Ice Box, runner-up in 2010 Kentucky Derby; Pachattack, who won at ten furlongs and twelve furlongs multiple times; and Church Service, a graded stakes winner that placed in many routes, even up to thirteen furlongs.

Lucky Pulpit’s dam, Lucky Soph, raced in England, where she won just one race from six starts, defeating two rivals over a distance of one mile. She is a daughter of Cozzene, the sire of several horses that have won grade/group ones at ten furlongs or longer, including Alphabet Soup, Star of Cozzene, Star Over the Bay, and Tikkanen.

California Chrome is the first foal out of Love the Chase, a one-time winner from six starts. That one win came at the distance of a mile. Love the Chase is a daughter of Not For Love, a full brother to 1989 Champion Two-Year-Old Male who won the 1990 Travers Stakes (gr. I) at the mile and one-quarter distance. Not For Love has primarily sired horses successful at distances of nine furlongs or longer, but is from the same La Troienne branch as the Kentucky Derby winners Smarty Jones and Super Saver.

Love the Chase’s dam, Chase It Down, was also a one-time winner, capturing a six and one-half-furlong maiden at Charles Town. She is a daughter of Polish Numbers, a stakes-placed runner who set a track record for six and one-half furlongs at Belmont Park.


While California Chrome’s pedigree certainly hinders the hope that the colt can be victorious at classic distances, this colt appears to be the type that is capable of outrunning his pedigree. This colt may just be the most utterly gifted of all horses pointing towards the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Having won his past four starts by a combined 24 ¼ lengths, he appears to have forgotten how to lose. You can throw every excuse at him you want – he’s never raced outside of California, his pedigree is suspect, there will be too much speed in the Kentucky Derby – but he has displayed the most brilliance of any horse targeting this year’s Run for the Roses and that is a difficult aspect to look past.


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Older Comments about 2014 Kentucky Derby Hopeful: California Chrome...

noticed that we get the recap rather than the pre-race evaluation from your camp all the time. Easy after it is over to make up a story.
my futures make your lumbering "inside information" boring stories stellar
So Vic,one out of how many.Obvious that mathematical percentages are far from a strength in your arsenal of fortune cookie nuggets. Even a broken clock is right twice a day
I'm sorry, t_v, my computer has been taking 40 minutes to update and/or leaving off the last 2-3 comments for about a week now. I couldn't see your remark--or Tom's.
No idea which gate/post will be drawn by California Chrome, but Big Brown did win from post #20 (the outside gate) in 2008, vito.
no horse has not won from out there. A COLT named Big Brown did however.
Vito i absolutely love that comment. Please do not think there is much truth to that .There is a lot of truth. The draw how it is set up can easily be rigged. Amazing how last year,of all the bad boys in the field. VYJACK was lucky enough to draw POST 20. They tried to keep him out prior to the race without success. So Post 20 is the next best thing. The post in the race is not the worst part of the draw if you can believe it. When the horses come in to the passock area to get ready. The #20 stall is 5 feet from the throng of screaming and adoring fans. It was deafening to me,can you imagine the shocking experience for a young 3yo preparing to negotiate that distance for the first time. Another reason why outside posts rarely win.The closer you are to the rail.The further away you are from the crowds for the 25 minutes you are confined to a make shift stall. Not crying the blues on VYJACK.He was not winning that race if he had a 10 yard headstart. But it does play a major role.
The bluebloods will position him on the outside gate where no horse has ever won, if that happens then we know there is a conspiracy!
If you look at CC's pedigree, he traces back to Swaps on both sides of his dam's side. And also to a third dam of Swaps independently in Princess Ribot. I saw Swaps when he was at Spendthrift and CC carries himself the same way. It us a bit uncanny.
what would that matter (relative to Swaps) because all he has to do is beat THESE colts THIS year.
hey khubb swaps is the best CA bred to ever win the ky derby is CA chrome as good as him????
im a diehard Ky fan i think u might be right khubb
People can say what they want about breeding and Cal Bred this and that. Chrome is still getting better. He's going to do for CA what Smarty Jones did for PA. Get ready bluebloods get ready to be upset.
He's a nice colt but I think he's not a 10 furlong horse; California's tracks are faster than that
He's a nice colt but I think he's not a 10 furlong horse; California's tracks are faster than that
He's a nice colt but I think he's not a 10 furlong horse; California's tracks are faster than that
He looks like standout in this years derby. The only FLAW i can find is that he's CA bred. Thats not much of a flaw. I dont know for sure but i think only 4% of derby winners were CA bred ( 4 or 5 winners)???????
  • https://www.facebook.com/susan.cranesundell · Actually there have been three Kentucky Derby winners that are California;bred, Decidedly 1962 Swaps 1955 and Morvich 1922, that's two more than we've had from New York. The only New York bred to ever win he Kentucky Derby was Funny Cide and sadly, he was a gelding! So Sullivan, you can keep the state bias rolling...do you not like people from New York either? LOL · 2017 days ago
Learned LONG ago that people are not thier occupations or their jobs. Washington is a great state.
Based off the people I know from no-one-cares Connecticut and rainy Washington, the people living there are not my first picks in friends
Possibly if from CT, giggles.
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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage 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 an intern at WinStar Farm with a client relations and marketing focus, as well as some bloodstock duties.

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 racing manager or client relations 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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