Race of the Week 2017

2014 Kentucky Derby: Derby Dreams For California Chrome

California Chrome Martines 615 X 400
Photo: Melanie Martines


The road to the Kentucky Derby is a lifelong dream for many in the industry, and the journey to get there is not an easy one. From the twenty aspiring 3-year olds who make it to the gate, only one lucky horse will persevere the journey and be draped with a blanket of sweet Kentucky Roses. In the history of the Kentucky Derby, only 3 California-breds have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, the last Decidedly in 1962. For many who dream, only a few will overcome the greatest odds and have the opportunity to experience this excitement.


Back in 1955, a young exercise rider by the name of Art Sherman had the opportunity to accompany a very talented California-bred colt by the name of Swaps to the Kentucky Derby. Swaps had previously won the Santa Anita Derby that year and his connections hoped for a victory and to defeat the favorite in the race, Nashua. With only 10 colts in the field, it was East vs. West and Swaps beat the "best of the best" that day at Churchill Downs. It was the year 1955 when Swaps went down in Kentucky Derby history amongst the elite 3-year olds.


Flash forward 59 years later, a California-bred colt by the name of California Chrome is now taking his 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman back to Louisville for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby in hopes of chasing that Derby dream. California Chrome hopes to follow the great Swaps in bringing home a Santa Anita Derby / Kentucky Derby double, and be the next California-bred to capture the crown. In all of his 35 years as a trainer, this is Art Sherman’s first starter in the Derby and he has said that although he has been around some great horses, he has never trained a horse as talented as California Chrome, who reminds him of Swaps. The horses look alike, have a similar speedy-running style, both were born in California, and boost that big heart and will to win.


“He’s my Swaps,” said Sherman.


A very special colt, California Chrome continues to impress with 4 straight wins by a combined total of 24¼ lengths! Take a look at his resume, and you will see he was a very nice 2-year old. At 3, things really started coming together and since then, this dynamic duo of colt and jockey has not looked back. This exciting journey with Victor Espinoza started With the King Glorious Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park, and then moved on to the California Cup Derby at Santa Anita Race Track. He beat the eventual El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner Tamarando with a scintillating 5½ length victory. He went off to impress us again in the San Felipe Stakes when he moved to open company from his Cal-bred stakes, and again took command in the stretch over Midnight Hawk winning by 7¼ lengths. He came back in the Santa Anita Derby and once again destroyed the field in a commanding fashion. This was as perfect as a prep that you could get before going into the Kentucky Derby.


He consistently puts up good numbers, has held his form, and has since proven that he belongs in stakes competition. There comes a point where you start believing that this young colt could be something truly special. He has had a magnificent 3-year old season and, personally for me, the most impressive performance by any 3-year old this year and should be the deserving Kentucky Derby favorite. Since the closing of Betfair Hollywood Race track, he currently trains at Los Alamitos and it's welcome sign proudly states in his honor, "Home of California Chrome".


I have had the pleasure of seeing California Chrome run in both the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby and my experience has been surreal in how he wins so impressively. Here are photos of California Chrome before and after winning the the San Felipe Stakes:




















































In the Santa Anita Derby, I watched horses run by me as race fans cheered on their favorite horse. Loved by many, California Chrome was cheered on by the crowd as he cleared the field winning by 7¼ lengths! The last time I had felt this type of energy was in the early days with Zenyatta. I remember being in the crowd in a few of her races and feeling the same energy. 






























































It was so exciting to feel this type of energy back at the racetrack. As I listen around, I started to hear voices of other fans saying, “That’s the Kentucky Derby winner!”…“That horse is going to win the Kentucky Derby!”… “This is our next Triple Crown winner!”… “What a ride!”… “This is a special horse!”, “Wow!”, “Unbelievable!”…"Did you just see that"? The feeling was contagious, and as I stepped back for a second, I felt the hope of fans around me. In that moment, I was convinced that I just may have seen the Kentucky Derby winner.














California Chrome gives racing fans the hope for a Triple Crown winner. It’s been since 1978 with Affirmed that a horse has been victorious in all three legs of the Triple Crown trail. The sport needs this type of excitement that leads up to the Kentucky Derby. It’s horses like California Chrome that makes us all smile and appreciate horses who possess the determination, heart, and will to win. 















In a recent article, Art Sherman was quoted with the following:  

"California Chrome is a people's horse, and that's what he is. He likes people, he likes being babied, he likes you to play with him". 

Along with Art Sherman, I believe this colt is a rock star. He has the talent and heart for dreams to come true. With a sprinkle of luck from the Derby Gods we'll be wishing the best for California Chrome and his connections in the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby!


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Older Comments about 2014 Kentucky Derby: Derby Dreams For California Chrome...

I know the feeling I saw Swaps with If i remember correctly win with 130 pounds something easy and brend when california destroyed the field in the S/A Derby it was simply amazing hope he can do it
Many have selfish reasons for wanting the Derby winner. If we look at it from the Racing Industries want and need to win. It can only be California Chrome. With the ease and devastation he has handled his competition to date. Chrome is the only horse by far that has the "IT FACTOR" By that i mean the STAR POWER. Just imagine if this horse were trained by the most visible trainer out there. Bob Baffert,if he trained him. Then this horse now would of almost become a household name. Should any other horse win the race. It will be rewarding finacially to his backers and connections. But to the Racing Industry,it will be BORING.
  • MelanieMartines · I definitely agree with your comment. He is exceptional, has a very calm demeanor about him. In fact Art Sherman spoke about it in an interview about the type of horse that he is. During the earthquake that shook up Cali a few months ago Art had said he went to check on the horses. All of them were up, a bit startled, heads out of the stalls... Where was California Chrome? He was sleeping and was not bothered by the earthquake at all. Very calm demeanor, which will be needed in the Derby with the crowds, a large field, etc. A lot to take on for 3-year olds. On the track he glides on air. Definitely STAR POWER. I like to explore every facet of a horse when handicapping, and "Dosage Profiles" intrigues me. California Chrome's figures are on the speed side, but well within Classic guidelines and consistent with his performance in the Santa Anita Derby. Of the 20 Derby contenders, he is one of only seven with double digits in Classic. Recent Derby winners with figures not too different from California Chrome's include Super Saver, Smarty Jones, War Emblem and Fusaichi Pegasus, all of which had excellent speed but could be rated to get the distance. Again, other factors will play into crowning the winner but I really believe that if California Chrome gets a clean break, settles in, saves some ground has a little luck on his side. He’ll get the classic distance. Could I be wrong? Of course, but this is horse racing and anything can happen ; ) · 1303 days ago
Strongly disagree tm, the 20 co-owners of Wicked Strong, the reason for the name change and the fact that 5% of Triple Crown earnings and 1% of career earnings go to Boston Marathon victims and first responders support makes this storyline much more interesting and rewarding. Most of us will never own a graded stakes winner but pooling resources like the lunch ladies who won the lottery makes that angle more interesting as well. I would love to say I own 5% of a Triple Crown threat some day.
  • MelanieMartines · I think that is an awesome story as well. That's very kind of the connections to contribute it's winning earnings and to get involve with the community in such a helpful way. "It takes a Village" to make an impact and make a difference in people's lives. What a great thing to be a part of! You also can't disagree though that it would be such a great story as well if 59 years later, Art Sherman goes back to Louisville with California Chrome and brings home a winner. We all love stories like that. I'm also a fan of Wicked Strong and so far I have him as one of my contenders. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information on Wicked Strong who turned 3 TODAY, and his wonderful connections! · 1303 days ago
Welcome to the team, Melanie! These photos are spectacular. You are quite talented behind the lens. I'll be cheering for California Chrome all the way down the Churchill stretch.
Melanie, welcome to the HRN blog team!!
Welcome to the HRN Blog Squad, Melanie! Lovely article about California Chrome. I'm still skeptical, but I hope he proves me wrong.
  • MelanieMartines · Thanks so much! It's an interesting group, we'll all find out in less than a week who will rise to the top. Post position, weather, etc. will contribute. Lets hope he's got what it takes to rate, and sustain. What a grand story that would be for Art Sherman and Team! · 1303 days ago

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