View Count: 286 |  Publish Date: April 06, 2014
California Chrome a down-home Derby favorite

The world of sports has its unlikely stories. Now it has a topper, a horse named California Chrome. The Kentucky Derby has no idea whats about to hit it.
Saturdays Santa Anita Derby became a backdrop for the improbable. Make that the unbelievable.
It wasnt just that the gorgeous chestnut horse from trainer Art Shermans barn ran away with the $1-million Grade I race. Based on the horses previous outings, the victory was no surprise. Nor was the winning margin of 51/4 lengths, making his last four victories, all under rides by veteran Victor Espinoza, total 241/4 lengths of daylight. Bill Dwyre Bio | E-mail | Recent columns Also California Chrome crowds out others ahead of the Santa Anita Derby This Derby horse is a real work of Art
Going into Saturdays race, which attracted a crowd of 35,241 to get a look at this new 3-year-old star, California Chrome had already established himself as the favorite to win the Derby.
This was just frosting on that cake, as well as a first-hand beat-down for two other Derby prospects, trainer Bob Bafferts Hoppertunity and John Sadlers Candy Boy. They got a nice view of California Chromes rear end, finishing second and third, respectively, and likely will try again in Louisville on May 3.
Going in, we all knew about the horse. We also knew about Sherman, the 77-year-old veteran whose most important previous trip to Churchill Downs was as an 18-year-old exercise rider for Swaps, who won in 1955.
After this Santa Anita Derby, Sherman started to refer to California Chrome as my Swaps.
What wasnt that well known was the hows, whys and holy-cows-this-cant-be-trues of the connections.
Ah, where to start.
California Chrome was bred in California. If he wins the Derby, he will be only the fourth horse from the Golden State to do so. He trains at Los Alamitos, where other Triple Crown prospects have yet to tread.
His mother was named Not For Love, a mare who won one race and was purchased for $8,000 by Steve Coburn of Wellington, Nev., and Perry Martin of Yuba City. Breeders from the massive farms behind all those white fences and manicured grounds in Kentucky wouldnt wipe their feet on a doormat outside the barn of an $8,000 broodmare.
California Chrome was Not For Loves first foal. Eventually, the owners contacted Sherman, asked him to train their baby, called him their Derby horse and presented him with a schedule of races that would get them to Churchill Downs. Sherman giggled quietly, but liked these neophytes and their enthusiasm so much that he took the horse.
It needs to be understood that, most of the time, a Derby horse — especially such a heavy favorite — comes from the careful planning and bloodline study of rich people and families who have been in the business forever. They have millions and spend it breeding the best to the best so they can have more millions.
Coburn described himself and Martin as working class people. He said each still get up around 4 a.m. and make long drives to work. Neither is starving, but neither would even make the conversation about blue bloods.
They were asked how they would celebrate Saturday night. Coburn said, We havent decided yet which McDonalds to go to.
Martin runs the Martin Testing Lab. We test high-reliability equipment, the kind where somebody dies if something goes wrong, he says.
Coburn has a farm near Lake Topaz, Nev., and is a press operator at a company that makes magnetic strips for credit cards and drivers licenses.
For their big moment Saturday, Martin wore a black shirt and black Kentucky Derby cap, and Coburn wore a tan cowboy hat and jeans.
They named California Chrome by going to a restaurant with their wives, writing down a bunch of names and putting them in a hat. A waitress pulled out California Chrome. The racing colors, emerald and purple, are their wives favorite colors.
When the men bought Not For Love, a horseman nearby remarked that only a dumb ass would purchase her. Now, they run under the silks of DAP Racing, Dumb Ass Partners.
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Time: 8:19  |  News Code: 395976  |  Site: L. A. Times
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