California Chrome Wins Kentucky Derby

Favorite California Chrome easily won today’s Kentucky Derby, taking the first step toward ending a 36-year Triple Crown champion droughtю

California Crown pulled away from the field down the stretch and easily won the Kentucky Derby by two lengths. Photo: pbuschmann/Flickr

California Crown pulled away from the field down the stretch and easily won the Kentucky Derby by two lengths. Photo: pbuschmann/Flickr

California Chrome won the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs, giving his 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman first winning Run for the Roses.

California Chrome became the first California-bred horse since 1962 to win the Kentucky Derby, and Sherman became the oldest trainer to win the Derby, at 77 years old. Charlie Whittingham was 76 when he won it in 1989 with Sunday Silence.

Sherman was all smiles after the race. “He gave me the biggest thrill I ever had in my life,” he said.

The chestnut colt, ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome entered the race as a 2-1 favorite and ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.66. Chrome hasn’t lost since November. This victory was his fifth straight, with all four of the previous wins coming in California.

“I never felt in my dreams that I would win two Kentucky Derbies in my entire career. … It was an awesome feeling,” said winning jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode War Emblem to a Derby win in 2002.

Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome along with Perry Martin, said this week that it was a “done deal” their horse would win. He said he and his partner turned down a $6 million offer for 51 percent of their horse after he won the Santa Anita Derby in his previous race.

“I thought he rode him perfect,” said Sherman, a former jockey. “I was riding the last 70 yards with Victor, so I think he was riding two. He had a lot of weight on him, I can tell you that.”

California Chrome has the unlikeliest pedigree for a Derby champion. California Chrome was born on Feb. 18, the same day as Coburn’s sister, who died of cancer at age 36, he told reporters at a news conference after the race, fighting back tears.

His mother, named Love the Chase, won just one race. She was purchased by Coburn and Martin, a move that prompted a trainer to call them “dumb asses” for getting involved in racing. Feeling inspired, they named their operation DAP Racing, which stands for Dumb Ass Partners. Their silks include an image of a donkey.

Commanding Curve finished second, which was one notch less than ideal but a brilliant showing for a 37-1 longshot who made the Derby field only after several contenders dropped out. Trainer Dallas Stewart might be feeling a bit of deja vu: In 2013, he finished second with 35-1 longshot Golden Soul.

The third-place finisher was Danza, a trainee of Todd Pletcher. Pletcher saddled three other horses in Saturday’s Derby—We Miss Artie (10th), Intense Holiday (12th), Vinceremos (17th). He has now saddled 40 horses in the Derby, with only one victory in 2010 with Super Saver.

Wicked Strong, the 6-1 second choice, was fourth. Samraat was fifth, followed by Dance With Fate, Ride On Curlin, Medal Count, Chitu, We Miss Artie, General a Rod, Intense Holiday, Candy Boy, Uncle Sigh, Tapiture, Harry’s Holiday, Vinceremos, and Wildcat Red. Vicar’s In Trouble, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, finished last.

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