Perry Martin (left) and Steve Coburn (right) spent less than $10,000 for the horse that won the Derby.
Here’s a nice article from Sports Illustrated I thought you’d find interesting. What happens after the music fades? A bit like winning the lottery and then finding out who your friends are, really.
by Tim Layden
Wed Apr. 29, 2015
LOUISVILLE — The story really was a fairy tale, even more remarkable through the lens of time than it was in the moment. It was a narrative about some very common people and their most uncommon horse, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness a year ago, turning reason on its ear and racing off into some place where dreams alone are the currency of greatness. On Saturday afternoon, 20 more horses (and the people around them) will chase history at Churchill Downs, and the winner will briefly find a place in America’s heart—perhaps for two weeks or perhaps for five, but probably not for much longer. And no matter who he is or who his human connections are, he will be following one of the most unlikely acts in modern racing history.
You remember California Chrome: He was was the baby born when two guys who were dabbling in thoroughbred ownership at its lowest levels bought a skittish, slow-footed mare for $8,000 and bred her to an undistinguished stallion for a cut-rate $1,500. They sent their new baby, with four white feet and a white blaze on his face, to a 76-year-old former jockey who had been making a good living in the minor leagues of racing for nearly four decades, but who hadn’t been to the Kentucky Derby since he was teenager, when he slept in a railway car on bale of hay next to Swaps, who would go on to win the 1955 Derby.
California Chrome won only two of his first six races and showed little hint of what lay ahead, but then suddenly reeled off four victories in a row, including a dominant performance in the Santa Anita Derby. His owners were Steve Coburn, a big-talking guy with a Stetson and dirty boots, and Perry Martin, who was much less talkative but no less cocky. His trainer was Art Sherman, a likeable guy who could name-drop Eddie Arcaro on you just like that. Chrome become one of those irresistible, warm and fuzzy pre-Derby stories. I wrote a long story in Sports Illustrated in which Coburn and Martin—they named their operation Dumb-Ass Partners because that’s what people called them when they bought Chrome’s mother—said they had already turned down millions for the colt. So what if they thought they had figured out the game, when the reality was that they had gotten spectacularly lucky?
California Chrome became the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby since 1962.
Nearly a year has passed. California Chrome has run respectably since his Belmont loss, but has won just one of five races. After the colt finished a solid second in the Dubai World Cup on March 28, Martin, the majority owner, sent Chrome to England to work with trainer Rae Guest in preparation for turf (grass) races in May and June, a decision that surprised Coburn, Sherman and everyone else connected with the horse, and which has turned the whole Chrome family just a little dysfunctional. At California’s Los Alamitos Race Course, Sherman has put an unnamed 2-year-old in Chrome’s stall because the 2-year-old has three white feet. “I miss seeing Chrome in there,” says Sherman. “So this guy reminds me a little of Chrome and that helps. I saw some video of Chrome over there, and he looks to me like he’s lost weight. I worry about him.”
California Chrome isn’t the only member of the team missing from the barn. Sherman also fired Delgado after he missed some training sessions in Dubai. This sort of thing happens often on the racetrack, but here it feels just a little sadder. The horse continues to run, but the fairy tale lies in tatters.