Three Kentucky Derby winners, Morvich (1922), Swaps (1955) and Decidedly (1962) were born in the state of California. The first, Morvich, was described as ”ugly cripple that no one thought could run until (trainer) Burlew proved them wrong.”. He won 12 of 16 career starts and finished off the board only once. Swaps, remembered as a speed demon that could win over varied distances and surfaces, is one of the most fondly remembered horses in racing history. Decidedly was decidedly less noteworthy, but did sire nineteen takes winners.
After running a hole in the wind to take the San Felipe Stakes, California Chrome will seek to end the 51 year drought of CA-bred Derby winners. He is trained by Art Sherman, who is a 77 year old multiple graded stakes winning conditioner and earner of more than $36 million. California Chrome’s jockey, Victor Epinoza, won the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes aboard War Emblem. Together, horse and jockey are three for three with wins in the King Glorious Stakes, California Cup Derby and San Felipe since picking up the mount.
The next step for California Chrome is not yet clear. Sherman reported that the horse came out of the race in mint condition. He could contest the April 5 Santa Anita Derby or train right up to the Run for the Roses. In the mean time, he is stabled at Los Alamitos, where he has thrived since leaving the now defunct Hollywood Park in January.
The pedigree of this colt is tough to gauge. It’s not really a router’s pedigree, but it’s not a sprinter’s page either. Despite that, the way he finished in his last two races means the classic distance is likely within his range. Hopefully, Sherman will try the Santa Anita Derby, giving us a chance to see him attempt to win at nine furlongs.
All signs indicate that California Chrome has the necessary stuff to become the next winner of the Kentucky Derby. CA-bred or not, he is faster than a speeding bullet and could get even better.
Next up for 2014 Kentucky Derby contenders is the Rebel Stakes from Oaklawn Park on Saturday, where Tapiture and Strong Mandate will renew their rivalry.