The Heart of Seabiscuit Returns in California Chrome
~ Amy Lignor
The Kentucky Derby was a whole lot of fun and a shock for some – considering the winner was from ‘the people,’ so to speak. He was not bred from nobility, nor had parents that were Triple Crown winners. But what California Chrome does have, is two wins out of three, heading towards a place in history that has not been seen since 1978.
The Preakness Stakes began in Baltimore on Saturday, and with a true burst of energy only seen by a couple before him, California Chrome flew down the homestretch to win it all. Yes, the horse was heavily favored in the 10-horse field, but in the quieter circles, there were many who had come to see the ‘regular’ horse lose. They wanted to prove that a horse like California Chrome was most definitely not going to be accepted into the ‘Triple Crown Winner’ high society.
Victor Espinoza sat atop the colt and together they were able to hold off a serious contender in Ride On Curlin. Even the jockey seems to be ‘from the people.’ California Chrome’s teammate, Mr. Espinoza, was actually a former bus driver. Now, he has ridden in the Preakness six times, and is also the man who has ‘sat’ in this seat before; riding War Emblem back in 2002, winning both the Derby and Preakness, but finishing in eighth place at Belmont.
The list is not long when it comes to winners: Sir Barton was first in 1919. Then it took forever, it seemed like, to see a Triple Crown winner once again when Gallant Fox appeared in 1930. Family heritage holding up, Omaha, the son of that 1930 winner, also took the Triple Crown in 1935. War Admiral in 1937; Whirlaway in 1941; Count Fleet, 1943; Assault, 1946; Citation, 1948…and then, one name that will always be remembered in thoroughbred racing, Secretariat. Still appreciated as the ‘best of the best’, Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest times in all three Triple Crown races, winning in NY by a never-before-seen 31 lengths. Seattle Slew came along in 1977; Affirmed in 1978, then…nothing.
Can California Chrome finally bring the words Triple Crown Winner back? It seems more than likely, considering how many of the ‘people’ stand behind him. If a horse can feel emotion and love, which they surely can, than California Chrome must know that there has not been a beloved ‘star’ like him since Elvis left the building.
38 horses won the Derby and Preakness, but only 11 claimed victory at Belmont – simply because the longer distance was just too much for them.
But nothing seems to be out of the ballpark when it comes to Chrome. A true people’s horse, the owners who invested in a mare for $8,000 and then bred her to the stallion, Lucky Pulpit, for a reduced fee of $2,000, are literally glowing. After all…Chrome has multiplied their investment to infinity and beyond, earning $2.3 million in prize money even before the Preakness began.
What people are mostly talking about, however, is this: Though never competing in a Triple Crown race, a young bay named Seabiscuit outran Triple Crown Winner, War Admiral, in 1938. He became the horse of hope, proving to the Depression-era people that the ‘little’ guy could win. Like a lovely apparition, California Chrome is once again raising up the ‘little’ guy with his performances, and proving that no matter where you start in life, you CAN cross the finish line ahead of everyone else.
It’s nice to see that again…Go Chrome!