In the sports world, it takes a special amount of confidence bordering on hubris to ‘guarantee’ victory. According to legend, Babe Ruth ‘called his shot’ during the 1932 World Series by pointing to the center field wall and then jacking the ball into the seats. Joe Namath ‘guaranteed’ a win against the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3 and delivered. And now the phenomenon has come to horse racing. Steve Coburn, owner of Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome, is ‘calling his shot’ by saying emphatically that his horse will win the ‘Run for the Roses:
“He’s going to win the Kentucky Derby. This horse is going to win the Kentucky Derby, not a doubt in my mind. If he gets a nice, clean pass, he’s done — it’s over with.”
In all fairness, Coburn added a bit of a disclaimer about getting a clean ride but we’ll let that slide. Not that Coburn’s vision is unrealistic–California Chrome has been a very impressive horse during his three year old campaign. He earned the second fastest time ever in winning the Santa Anita Derby. His win in the San Felipe was also impressive–some suggest that his two wins were more impressive than any other Derby prep efforts.
Another component of the California Chrome feel good story–77 year old trainer Art Sherman taking his first horse to the Kentucky Derby in sixty years. Sherman was an exercise rider for the legendary Swaps in 1955–a horse that California Chrome has drawn comparisons to:
“He was really something else to be around, a gorgeous horse with the right temperament. He was a star; Swaps was my idol. I’ve never been on another one like him. He just floated around the race track.”
Sherman is excited but remains philosophical about his current opportunity:
“I’ve had a lot of good horses in my career and I’ve won a lot of races, but (with the Derby), I always just figured if it happens, it happens. I just love my life and I’m just trying to be relaxed going into this. I don’t want my hopes to be too big because I’ve seen so many disappointments for people who got their horse to the Derby. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
California Chrome will certainly be the favorite in the Kentucky Derby which is set for May 4 at Louisville’s Churchill Downs race track.