Louisville, Ky. -- California Chrome asserted his superiority in Saturday’s $2 million Kentucky Derby, winning handily by a 1 3/4-length margin. The 5-2 favorite advanced to the lead at the conclusion of the far turn and left his 18 rivals in shambles as he drew off convincingly into the stretch run.
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, who earned his second Kentucky Derby win after taking the 2002 edition with War Emblem, California Chrome scored for 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman, who became the oldest trainer to win the Run for the Roses in its 140-year history.
“He gave me the biggest thrill I ever had in my life,” Sherman said.
The start was essential for the California Chrome, who possesses an abundance of natural speed but has shown a tendency to break tardily in previous starts. He left the starting gate Saturday in perfect order, assuming forward positioning in third as Uncle Sigh and Chitu dueled for the lead entering the first turn.
Kept three wide in the clear down the backstretch, California Chrome was traveling smoothly waiting for his cue from Espinoza. The jockey waited until the top of the stretch to ask him and the response was immediate.
“Awesome,” Espinoza said. “This was a typical race for him. He ran like he always does. Art (Sherman) just said: ‘You know him, ride him.’ I had the trip I wanted.”
California Chrome motored into the final furlongs with a head of steam and was gone, opening up by five lengths with only an eighth of a mile remaining.
“I don’t mess with him too much,” Espinoza explained. “I just stretch his legs a little bit and let him do his thing. Pressure will be back on for the Preakness, but that’s OK.”
California Chrome has the talent to make a serious run for the Triple Crown if he can maintain his form. And for a sport suffering through a 36-year drought, with Affirmed being the last the horse to sweep all three races in 1978, California Chrome couldn’t be a more exciting prospect.
The chestnut colt has now won five straight starts with devastating ease and clearly stands as a dominant presence among the 3-year-old division.
Owned and bred by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome became the first California-born horse to win the Kentucky Derby since Determinedly in 1962. He’s by Lucky Pulpit, a stallion that stands for $2,500 and his owners spent $8,000 to buy his mare.
His pedigree pales in comparison to the regal bloodlines that many rivals brought into the Kentucky Derby, but California Chrome proves that a good horse can come from anywhere.
“I believe this horse will win the Triple Crown,” Coburn said.
“I know how lucky I am,” Sherman added. “I just feel like, hey, let’s go. I’m ready for the next race.”
Commanding Curve, who raced at the back of the pack for the opening three-quarters of a mile, came charging late for second, finishing 1 1/4 lengths better than third-placer Danza. The runner-up was a 37-1 outsider, with only two horses going off at longer odds. Danza received support as the 8-1 third choice in the wagering.
Wicked Strong, the 6-1 second choice, edged Samraat in the final strides by a nose for fourth. Dance with Fate finished sixth and was followed under the wire by Ride on Curlin, Medal Count, Chitu, We Miss Artie, General a Rod, Intense Holiday, Candy Boy, Uncle Sigh, Tapiture, Harry’s Holiday, Vinceremos, Wildcat Red and Vicar’s in Trouble.
California Chrome completed the 1 1/4-mile distance in 2:03 3/5.
Winner of the Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe in his two previous starts, California Chrome earned $1,417,800, increasing his lifetime earnings to $2,552,650 from an 11-7-1-0 record.