By Steve Ginsburg
BALTIMORE (Reuters) – California Chrome owner Steve Coburn has known for a long time that his colt was something special.
“When I saw this baby when he was a day old, I told my wife, Carolyn, this horse is going to do something big,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but we’re going to stay in the game to make sure this colt gets to be the best that he can be.
“I’ve been a firm believer in that ever since, and he’s not proven me wrong.”
Coburn’s colt, California Chrome, ridden by veteran Victor Espinoza, delighted a record Pimlico crowd of 123,000 with a dazzling 1 1/2-length victory over Ride On Curlin to clinch the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
The three-year-old chestnut won the May 3 Kentucky Derby and after his Preakness victory stands to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 if he can win the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 7.
Coburn’s early assessment was surely not shared by many.
He and co-owner Perry Martin bought a mare named Love the Chase for $8,000 and paid a $2,500 stud fee to breed her with Lucky Pulpit, who won only three of his 22 starts.
The result of the laughably modest breeding in the sport of kings was California Chrome. Coburn and Martin are average guys in the big-money sport of horseracing.
Coburn is a press operator in a Nevada factory that makes magnetic strips for credit cards and hotel keys.
“He loves people,” Coburn said of his colt. “He loves what he does, and that’s why he’s America’s horse. In my opinion, this horse, what he’s doing for two guys that work their butts off every day just to put beans and bacon on the table.
“This horse has given everybody else out there the incentive to say, ‘You know what? We can do it too. We can do this also.’
“It may not be a race horse. It may be the idea that they have in their head of a new product or whatever the case may be. We just hope that this horse is letting America know that the little guy can win.”
The colt’s trainer is Art Sherman, who at 77 years old is finally sitting in the spotlight. It is a new role for Sherman but he is getting accustomed to the attention.
“After I won the Kentucky Derby, I said, ‘Wow, all of a sudden I feel like Willie Nelson, the old rock star coming through the airport,’ he said.
“So I’m getting kind of used to it. Sometimes I need to take my little siesta for about an hour. I call it just charging my battery a little bit, and then I’m okay.”