California Chrome continued his improbable ride to the top of the three year old class on Saturday by pulling away late in the race and winning the Kentucky Derby. In the process 77 year old Art Sherman became the oldest trainer of a Kentucky Derby winner in history. Sherman’s only previous Kentucky Derby experience was in 1955 when he was a stablehand and exercise rider for the legendary Swaps. Before the race he visted Swaps’ grave site at Churchill Downs and after the race said that California Chrome was ‘another Swaps’ and that the horse had given him ‘the biggest thrill of his life.
So much backstory to California Chome, the product of an $8,000 broodmare owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin. Coburn and Martin–who were referred to as ‘a couple of dumbasses’ early in their racing career and named their stable ‘Dumb Ass Partners’ in response–reportedly were offered $6 million for 51% of California Chrome after the Santa Anita Derby but turned it down. Obviously there were financial considerations but generally they didn’t like the idea of changes in their horse’s training methodology. California Chrome becomes only the 4th California bred Derby winner in history and the first since 1962. He’s the first to train at Los Alamitos, a track best known for quarter horse racing. Chrome began training at Los Alamitos after his previous home, Hollywood Park, closed down. He has the distinction of being the final winner of a stakes race at Hollywood Park. At least their jockey, Victor Espinoza, had been there before and it was likely his experience that helped him guide California Chrome to what ended up being an impressive Kentucky Derby victory. It was Espinoza’s second Kentucky Derby victory.
Commanding Curve finished second and Danza would take third with Wicked Strong Holding on for fourth. California Chrome will remain at Churchill Downs under the care of Sherman’s friend and colleague Tom Proctor for the next week before heading to Baltimore, Maryland’s Pimlico Race Course. He’ll race in the Preakness Stakes on May 17 and try to take the second step toward becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.