California Chrome's Impact On The Valley Community
& The Mark He'll Leave In Our Hearts Forever
Bred in California by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome was foaled at Harris Farms in Coalinga, California, on February 18, 2011. Harris Farms has a history of delivering and developing talented foals and has had much success in California racing, but the farm never had another colt that attracted as much attention and fame as California Chrome. Click here to learn more about his early beginnings.
Becoming a Champion
Leading into the Kentucky Derby, many dismissed California Chrome's chances due to his pedigree and the supposed lack of competition in his prior races. Others doubted his ability because the colt had never raced outside California. In contrast to the critics, reports surfaced that the owners had turned down a new offer of $10 million for the future champion.
The colt arrived at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 28 and was one of the last Derby contenders to arrive. He was flown in from California, his first time on a plane, and traveled quietly. He was the morning line favorite at odds of 5-2 and would go on to take the win. This win was his jockey, Victor Espinoza’s, second Derby victory, and would make 77-year-old Alan Sherman the oldest trainer to ever win the race.
California Chrome shipped on May 12 to Baltimore to run in the 2014 Preakness Stakes with only a two-week break. California Chrome was assigned the number three post position in a field of ten horses – a post that he shared in common with 1973 Preakness Stakes winner, Secretariat – and was the morning line odds-on favorite at 3-5. On race day, California Chrome made a clean start out of the gate, was close to the front through the backstretch, made his bid for the lead at the far turn and was first by the top of the stretch. The press considered the Preakness to be the horse's strongest victory to date. In post-race interviews, Coburn stated that California Chrome had become “America's Horse.” The win led him to become the only California-bred horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in Thoroughbred Racing history as he would continue to the Belmont Stakes in search of the Triple Crown. Click here to learn more about California Chrome’s road to greatness.
In spite of his loss in the Belmont, California Chrome was ranked the top three-year-old horse in the United States by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), and fifth in the world according to the World's Best Racehorse Rankings. Both chambers of the California State Legislature also unanimously passed a resolution recognizing his outstanding performance.
The humble origins of the horse and the people around him played a role in his popularity, as did the horse's people-focused attitude. As “America’s horse,” California Chrome gained an enthusiastic fan base – now nationwide. This became apparent during the Santa Anita Derby when the horse's supporters were invited to join the owners in the winner's circle and over 100 people crammed into the small area. The word “Chromies” was first used eight nights before the Kentucky Derby referring to his loyal fan base, and it continues to be used today.
After his foot injury healed, California Chrome was sent to Harris Farms for pasture rest from the rigors of the Triple Crown series. During that time, the farm fielded many calls every day from fans wanting to visit the horse while he rested from racing.
As the California racing industry continues to struggle, California Chrome gave a much-needed boost to the sport. On a national level, it was said that Thoroughbred horse racing had not been mentioned on CNN for a long time – until California Chrome, that is.
California Chrome Day at The Big Fresno Fair
On Saturday, October 11, 2014, The Big Fresno Fair honored Valley born, bred and fed Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, California Chrome at a special presentation in between the horse races. This inspirational celebration, including all those in attendance, was a testament to California Chrome’s immeasurable contributions toward not only horse racing, but to our Valley community and the mark he will leave in our hearts forever.
California Chrome’s owners Steve & Carolyn Coburn and Perry & Denise Martin were in attendance as well as:
Congressman Jim Costa
Jose Avila, District Representative for Congressman Devin Nunes
Mary Alice Kaloostian, District Director for Senator Tom Berryhill
Nathan Alonzo, District Representative for Senator Andy Vidak
Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea
City of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin
City of Fresno Councilman Sal Quintero
City of Sanger Mayor Josh Mitchell
Harris Farms staff
Chris Korby, Executive Director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs
Big Fresno Fair Track Handicapper Robbie Rodriguez
Big Fresno Fair Board of Directors
Friends of the Big Fresno Fair President Brian I. Tatarian
Dror & Fhamie Deron
During this special presentation, Congressman Jim Costa presented a congressional record to the Coburns and the Martins in honor of California Chrome’s tremendous accomplishments as not only a racing horse, but as a symbol of encouragement and hope for the entire racing community.Senator Tom Berryhill and Senator Andy Vidak were also recognized as co-authors on a resolution that was presented on the Senate floor in June honoring California Chrome and his owners.
Following the congressional record, Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea presented a proclamation naming October 11 California Chrome Day in Fresno County. City of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Councilman Sal Quintero then presented a proclamation on behalf of the City of Fresno proclaiming it California Chrome Day in the City of Fresno, as well as a special California Chrome Key – not only to the City of Fresno but to the hearts of its residents as this hometown horse won everyone over with his drive to win and his dynamic personality. Mayor Joshua Mitchell also presented a proclamation on behalf of the City of Sanger dedicating October 11 as California Chrome Day in Sanger, as well as presenting the Key of the City to the owners.
Following these presentations, Dror and Fahmie Doran, as well as local artist Debbie Stevenson presented The Big Fresno Fair CEO John Alkire with a special painting of California Chrome. The California Chrome inspired painter Debbie Stevenson, a long-time Fair exhibitor, created a traditional-style portrait of California Chrome and entered it into the Fair’s competitive exhibits program in the Fine Arts & Photography Building. After taking a three-year break from the Fair’s competitive exhibits program, the painting entitled “Pride of California” won Debbie a 1st place award and was purchased by Dror and Fhamie Geron. Instead of keeping this remarkable piece, Dror and Fhamie have generously donated the painting to The Big Fresno Fair Museum so that the public can enjoy it for generations to come.
This donation inspired John Harris himself to purchase a Chapman painting of California Chrome – “California Chrome Crushes Them in the Kentucky Derby” – that was presented by Robbie Rodriguez to The Big Fresno Fair CEO John Alkire. Painter Tom Chapman began his love for art, athletics and animals at an early age and would go on to become a successful jockey in the horse racing industry. His career resulted in 2,560 wins. He began painting in 1993 as a way to relieve the stress of horse racing and, after winning his first Bay Meadows Handicap, drew a painting of the horse for himself. When the owners of the horse saw the painting, they decided to make him an offer that he could not refuse. It was then that Chapman decided to hang up his hat as a jockey and begin his second career as an artist. This painting of California Chrome at the finish line of the Kentucky Derby was also donated to The Big Fresno Fair Museum.
We were also thrilled to add a special piece of racing history donated by Big Fresno Fair Track Handicapper, Robbie Rodriguez to The Big Fresno Fair Museum that day – a D.A.P. Racing Cap signed by Owner of the 1973 Triple Crown Winner Secretariat (Penny Chenery), Jockey of 1977 Triple Crown Winner Seattle Slew (Jean Cruguet) Owner of 1978 and last to date Triple Crown Winner Affirmed (Patricia Wolfson), Owners/Breeders of 2014 Kentucky Derby Winner California Chrome (Steve and Carolyn Coburn and Perry and Denise Martin), Jockey of California Chrome (Victor Espinoza), Trainer of California Chrome (Art Sherman), Assistant Trainers (Steve and Alan Sherman), Groom (Raul Rodriguez) and Owners of California Chrome’s sire Lucky Pulpit (Larry and Marianne Williams). Dried roses from the victory garland laid on California Chrome after winning the Kentucky Derby and dirt from the finish line were also donated.