California Chrome conquers Kentucky

May 3rd, 2014

California Chrome became a “made for Hollywood,” dream-come-true for 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman and owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, with his 1 3/4-length victory, under Victor Espinoza, in today’s 140th running of the Kentucky Derby.

It was the fifth consecutive win for the 5-2 favorite, who won his four previous starts, including the G1 Santa Anita Derby on April 5, by a total of 25 ¼ lengths. Commanding Curve, a 37-1 longshot, with one win in six starts, finished second; Danza placed third at 9-1 .

Partners Coburn and Martin paid a stud fee of $2,500 to breed their $8,000 mare, Love the Chase, to Lucky Pulpit and get California Chrome, the first California-bred horse to claim the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly, in 1962, and the winner of $2,374,850, including $1.24 million for his Derby win. Earlier this spring, Coburn and Martin turned down a $6 million offer from a party interested in purchasing 51 percent interest in the colt.

“This is a dream come true,” said Coburn, 61, an army veteran and nine-to-five working man from Topaz Lake, Calif. “I was riding him the last 70 yards with Victor.”

It was the second Derby victory for Espinoza, who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes on War Emblem.

“I don’t mess with him that much.” said Espinoza, who has been California Chrome’s sole rider since December, when the pair won the Golden State Juvenile Stakes at Hollywood Park by 6 ¼ lengths. “I just let him run his race and enjoy himself,”

With California Chrome’s win, Art Sherman entered the record books as the oldest trainer of a Kentucky Derby winner. It also marked the first time in 59 years that Sherman had accompanied an entry to the Derby. The first time was in 1955, when Sherman, an 18-year-old stable boy, came to Churchill Downs with the team of California-bred Swaps, but stayed on the backside during the race.

“Words can’t describe how I feel,” said Sherman, who visited the grave of 1955 Derby winner Swaps, at Churchill Downs, the day before the Derby. “He’s my Swaps.”