Chrome Will Get Another Chance To Shine

It has been mentioned in this corner – and I think, as recently as last week – that the only certainty in Thoroughbred racing is its uncertainty.

But as of this writing, this week’s news is filled with smile-producing items. Let’s not waste an instant in getting to them.

Three pieces of news feature Kentucky Derby winners.

Last week’s visit focused on late-breaking news that 2014 Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year California Chrome, just back from a luckless stay in England, was headed to the sidelines with an injury and that his racing career could be over. A bone bruise was detected while the colt was being examined for a possible sale; although, at that point, it was unclear who was interested in buying an interest in the horse.

Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan could be racing again soon.  He's shown here with jockey John Velazquez following his win in the 2014 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. Photos by Reed Palmer | Churchill Downs

Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan could be racing again soon. He’s shown here with jockey John Velazquez following his win in the 2014 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs. Photos by Reed Palmer | Churchill Downs

Now we have more information, and the chances that we could see California Chrome run again have improved significantly.  Here’s the bullet-point version of the week’s events:

•Kentucky breeder Taylor Made Farm is in as part of the Chrome team, and partner Steve Coburn is out. Taylor Made purchased the 30 percent interest in the Derby winner previously held by Coburn and wife Carolyn. Perry and Denise Martin retain their majority share.

•Taylor Made Vice President of Stallions Ben Taylor said after the purchase that California Chrome’s problems are “not significant.”

•The current plan for California Chrome is to bring him back to the races in 2016 and launch his stallion career the following year.

Veteran trainer Art Sherman, who saddled the colt throughout his championship season, said later that California Chrome would rest at Taylor Made for “75 to 80 days” and would then return to the trainer’s stable at Southern California’s Los Alamitos Race Course.

Art Sherman, trainer of 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome. Photos by Reed Palmer | Churchill Downs

Art Sherman, trainer of 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome. Photos by Reed Palmer | Churchill Downs

After a runner up finish at the $10 million Dubai World Cup earlier this year, California Chrome was slated to run at the famed Royal Ascot but had to back out just days before the race due to a minor injury. The first  stop back in the U.S. was supposed to be Chicago’s Arlington Million on August 15, but last week’s injury news ended that quest for Chrome’s team as well.

California Chrome has won eight of 18 starts, but has earned only one win in six races since his dominant win in the 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico earned him a shot at the Triple Crown. The son of Lucky Pulpit has collected $6,322,650 in career earnings.

Meanwhile, the karma remains good for our other active Kentucky Derby winner. Triple Crown champion American Pharoah worked a sharp six furlongs on Saturday at Del Mar. Ahmed Zayat’s colt is preparing for a run in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park.

The Bob Baffert-trained son of Pioneerof the Nile covered the distance in 1:11.40, which was the fastest of 12 moves at the distance on the day.

Then word arrived Tuesday that Georgetown, Ky.’s Old Friends Farm would soon double its population of Kentucky Derby winners. War Emblem, winner of the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness for trainer Bob Baffert, is scheduled to arrive at Old Friends sometime in September.

War Emblem will join Baffert’s 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm at Old Friends. The farm, founded by Michael Blowen, now cares for more than 150 retired Thoroughbreds. The facility is funded by donations, grants and other private support.

Baffert and wife Jill donated $50,000 to Old Friends following American Pharoah’s Triple Crown sweep. You can learn more about the farm online at oldfriendsequine.org.

The nearly nonstop flow of good news continued with word from Lexington over the weekend that two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan had taken a big step toward a return to competition. The champion worked a half-mile in :48.20 last Friday over Keeneland’s turf course – his first serious training move of the year – and trainer Charlie LoPresti hopes his star could bid for a third victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile when the event is held at his home track in Lexington for the first time.

Wise Dan – who swept the Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year, turf champion and champion older male in 2012 and 2013 – has not competed since a victory in the Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile in October. Trainer Charlie LoPresti has been cautious with his star since Wise Dan returned to training, but beamed after the work.

“It’s a big relief to me to know that he’s back and his ankle is good and he’s happy,” Lopresti told the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Alicia Wincze Hughes after Friday’s move.  “I want to get through a couple of breezes with him and see where I’m at. From what I saw today, he’s pretty fit.”

LoPresti said that he’d like to run Wise Dan in the Woodbine Mile – a race he won at the Toronto track in 2012 and 2013. The trip to Canada would be followed by another bid for Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile and, with continued good fortune, a Breeders’ Cup run on Oct. 31.

That’s a lot of good racing news for a week, and let’s hope that the spigot remains open and the flow is set on full.

The first Triple Crown in 37 years would ordinarily be enough, but we’re on a roll; let’s see how far we can carry this thing. VT

  • Kathleen Austin

    Thank you John. Nicely written article.

  • Bev

    Was a great article full of hope. Thank you John.

    • UnintstallingObama

      Matterhorn stepped on Chrome’s left front, the abscess he acquired in England was on the right front. Two unrelated events

      • Bev

        hmmmm, I thought I read right front foot when this happened. Oh well.

        • UnintstallingObama

          Rechecked photos, you are correct, right front.

  • trooper seven

    Good straightforward article, and yes, lots of good news. With both Chrome and Wise Dan running again the future is significantly brighter for the fans and followers.

    • Mike Relva

      Interesting how you’ve devoted much time on blogs being Perry Martin’s “cheerleader”. Let me ask one question,did going to Eng. actually help Chrome? I was against it from the beginning. Posted many times what a stupid move,driven by sheer ego and a serious disregard for the horse. Coburn took so much abuse,at least him and Art were against it.

      • Mike Relva

        When an owner “plays trainer” usually it doesn’t end well.