What a change in the perception and accomplishments of California Chrome from a year ago, huh? Second in the Dubai World Cup, he was then taken from the popular trainer that had developed him and sent to Newmarket to prepare for … well, you know the strange and unflattering story that ended with Chrome’s return to the States amidst disharmony and social media outrage, etc., and news that he’d suffered a bone bruise and was done. Enter Taylor Made Farm, which bought out one of the bickering partners, Steve Coburn — a minority shareholder with a Trumpesque voice that was prone to braggadocio and was the ownership face of the horse until majority owner Perry Martin decided to call the shots, including the failed attempt to race in Europe — to ostensibly stand the horse at stud. But after vet reports indicated the Derby and Preakness winner by Lucky Pulpit would be okay to race again after some rest and relaxation on the farm, a new chapter began. DAP Stable (Dumb Ass Partners, the nom de course of Martin and Coburn) became California Chrome LLC under the planning of Taylor Made, and the DWC was once again the target with the horse back in the capable hands of Art Sherman and his assistant and son, Alan.
Taylor Made has gambled on well-raced horses without big-time sire power as stallion prospects before. The two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, a California-bred by the unheralded California-based Cee’s Tizzy, went to stud at WinStar in a Taylor Made partnership deal, and he stood for $30,000 his first season at stud in 2002 — a fee that was considered low at the time to invite more interest — and has since become a leading stallion.
Like Tiznow, California Chrome is a California-bred by an unheralded California-based stallion, but if he’d gone to stud in 2016 at Taylor Made off a disappointing and failed 2015 season, he’d probably have stood for $15,000 and would have compared unfavorably to a strong group of young horses that went to stud in 2016 with better pedigrees and current race records. And in particular, he’d have suffered in comparison to the current Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who was garnering all the ink and online keystrokes and whose rider was also the pilot of California Chrome.
Taylor Made’s second gamble after buying in, to put the horse back in training and forego a year in the breeding shed, is one of the greatest bloodstock coups in recent memory. Now the horse is basking in the international afterglow of a DWC win and is $6 million-plus richer for the new ownership group that includes several breeders put into the racing deal by Taylor Made; is the richest North American-based money earner; has been repeatedly complimented on social media and print for his physicality — “stronger and bigger” is the refrain; and is once again the fan favorite of social media, essentially filling the void vacated by American Pharaoh.
California Chrome is one of three Kentucky Derby winners to also win the DWC — next to Animal Kingdom and Silver Charm — but he can become the first horse to win the three most important and famous 10F dirt races if he takes the Breeders’Cup Classic at the end of the year — his intended goal.
If that happens, he will be as unique as American Pharoah was to the breeding community. And his sire and pedigree will take a backseat to his racetrack accomplishments. After all, it didn’t matter to anyone that Cigar’s sire was Palace Music, Dr. Fager’s was Rough’n Tumble, or Holy Bull’s was Great Above at the end of the day.