California Chrome, the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Kentucky Derby, will start the race from post position five. His connections were hoping for one of the middle starting gate positions–specifically six through ten–but are fairly happy with what they drew. The race was won from the #5 starting slot in both 2002 and 2003 and the #5 starting position should allow California Chrome to establish good position at the start and minimize his chances of getting pinned in along the rail or on the outside.
Steve Coburn, owner of California Chrome, said prior to the post position draw that he’d prefer a spot from 6 to 10 but once the horse’s post position assignment was announce the table where his connections were sitting broke into applause. According to trainer Art Sherman the ascension of California Chrome is almost too good to be true:
“It’s like a storybook kind of thing. It gives everyone the idea that they’ve got a chance.”
Sherman said that his horse has a unique personality and should be able to handle the Derby pressure:
“If you’ve been around this horse, if you’ve been around horses in general, you know they all have their own personalities. This horse just has a wonderful personality, an excellent demeanor. He’s so easy-going, so laid back. Nothing seems to bother him.”
He’s trying to develop the same sort of Zen detachment as California Chrome:
“I love this colt, and I love where he’s taken us. But the most important thing to me is keeping him sound and healthy. If the Derby is meant to be, it will be.”
California Chrome’s success has been a shot in the arm for the beleaguered horse racing industry in his home state of California. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, another California native, is happy to see some good news in Golden State racing:
“It’s great for California racing, especially. It’s a great story, with Art (77-year-old trainer Art Sherman), his owners (and breeders, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin) and the horse training out of Los Alamitos. That’s a story in itself. To me, it’s a huge stamp of approval for Los Alamitos. California Chrome training over there, that’s a whole different fan base, so it’s cool.”
Most horse racing experts maintain that California Chrome is still ‘the horse to beat’ but in a large field of 20 competitors anything can happen.