EDITORIAL: California Chrome makes the Valley proud

FresnoMay 5, 2014 

Victor Espinoza celebrates after riding California Chrome to a victory during the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Louisville, Ky.

DAVID J. PHILLIP — Associated Press

Horse racing fans in the Central Valley had more than a passing interest in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. California Chrome, the winning horse, was born and bred in the Valley.

The chestnut colt was the first from California to win the most famous horse race in the world since 1962.

His co-owners -- Denise and Perry Martin of Yuba City and Steve and Carolyn Coburn of Topaz Lake, Nev. -- are modest couples and novice horse breeders, nothing like the usual blue bloods at storied Churchill Downs.

His 77-year-old trainer, Art Sherman, had never had a Derby start before Saturday.

Even before the Derby, California Chrome had legions of supporters across the country, thanks to his homespun tale.

His mother, Love The Chase, won only once during her career. Some partners who owned her wanted out, so the two Martins and Coburns bought her for the princely sum of $8,000.

As the story goes, the groom said, "Whoever buys this mare sure is a dumb ass." Now, their stable's name is Dumb Ass Partners and their jockey's silks feature a bright green jackass.

The couples retired Love The Chase for breeding; it took two seasons, but she was eventually mated with Lucky Pulpit, a young stallion at Harris Farms in Coalinga, part of the huge cattle ranch along Interstate 5.

The stud fee was a paltry $2,500, compared to as much as $150,000 in Kentucky.

Still, California Chrome has good bloodlines; he's a direct descendant of Swaps (nicknamed the California Comet), who won the Derby in 1955.

When he was born in February 2011, the Martins knew they had something special. He weighed 30 pounds more than the average thoroughbred foal and grew lean and muscular.

Three years later, the two couples have won horse racing's equivalent of the lottery. They haven't cashed in just yet.

In March, they spurned a $6 million offer for a 51% interest and a higher one after he won the prestigious Santa Anita Derby a month ago in near-record time. Winning the Derby is the biggest payday yet.

He is undefeated this year, having won his previous four races by 25 lengths combined. He went to the Derby post as a clear favorite, and did not disappoint.

Now the buzz turns to whether California Chrome can be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

If California Chrome can pull that off, now that would be a Hollywood ending.

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