Monday, September 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

California Chrome’s story may never repeat

Belmont Stakes Horse Racing

Assistant trainer Alan Sherman holds Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome as he is bathed after a workout, Monday, June 2, 2014, in Elmont, N.Y. California Chrome will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he races in the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

By
June 04, 2014 |

AURORA, Colo. — A message to horse lovers and dreamers out there: This will not happen to you.

Well, almost certainly not.

For all the buzz California Chrome’s feel-good run at the Triple Crown is generating for horse racing, his too-good-to-be-true story has virtually no chance of repeating itself, according to the numbers.

The horse that will line up at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday is the product of an unspectacular mare and an equally unheralded stallion, bred in a state not known for producing winners and owned by a couple of racing outsiders who were labeled “dumb asses” for even pondering such a thing.

Byron Rogers, whose business is scientifically analyzing genetic makeup of racehorses, puts the odds at 50,000-to-1 against a horse with the strength and the stamina of a California Chrome ever showing up again among the 21,000 or so thoroughbred foals born each year. It’s the sort of horse that shows up maybe once every three years, but even then doesn’t always find his way into the spotlight because success requires a magic mix of the right owner, trainer and opportunity.

California Chrome was born at well-respected Harris Farms in Coalinga, California, and trained by longtime horseman Art Sherman, the 77-year-old who returned to the big-time nearly six decades after going to the Kentucky Derby as an exercise rider for Swaps, who won the 1955 Derby.

“This horse had everything go his way,” Rogers said. “He had just about perfect genetics. Art Sherman is a very good trainer. Harris Farms is a good farm. You couldn’t predict any of this at the start with this horse.”

In fact, Rogers says, if California Chrome’s parents were paired again, odds are only about one out of 10 their offspring would make it to a stakes race.

It’s a reality that horsemen on the lower end of the sport, which is where California Chrome’s owners once lived, are in touch with every day. Most aren’t in it to reach the big time, only to break even with their expenses.

“It’s all about luck and timing,” says Shannon Rushton, executive director of the Colorado horse racing association, speaking recently at Arapahoe Park outside of Denver, where the Kentucky Derby is a distant dream for almost every man and horse. “Every year, you kind of hope that, at some point and time, you might be the one to lead a horse into the paddock on Breeder’s Cup day or Kentucky Derby day.”

The odds, even when the bloodlines are much more refined than California Chrome’s, are very much against it.

Rogers says between only about 3.5 percent of thoroughbreds born each year are good enough to run in a stakes race. Only 20 can make it to the starting line at the Kentucky Derby. And yet, those odds have actually improved over the last decade, since the economic turndown also brought a slowdown in breeding. In 2005, the registered foal crop in the United States totaled more than 35,000. Last year, it was estimated at 21,275, continuing a steady decline that began in 2006.

Still, when owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin decided to buy an undistinguished filly, Love the Chase, for $8,000 a few years ago and breed her to an equally ordinary stallion named Lucky Pulpit, they knew they were buying into a fairy tale, the likes of which almost never end like this.

“There’s always the dream. I think dreams are great,” said Scott Powell, who owns and trains horses at Arapahoe Park. “But you have to deal with reality, too. It’s not Kentucky Derby or bust.”

While horsemen like Powell appreciate what California Chrome could do for their sport, they recognize the one-in-a-million nature of the whole thing.

“The goal is that they make money to maintain themselves,” said Gilberto Dorantes, running his 3-year-old horse at Arapahoe Park on Memorial Day for the first time after growing up listening to his grandfather’s stories about being a horseman in Mexico. “That’s the goal. To enjoy the horses and have them do what they were bred for. That’s the best thing I can do for those horses.”

Dorantes spent around $500 on Dobes Bee — a far cry from the millions a select handful of very rich owners spend as they look from stable to stable, often turning to science, to find their magic horse.

Rogers said his business of merging data and genetics has burgeoned over the past few years, as big-money investors uncover as much information as possible in the quest to find the right horse to take big.

He doesn’t expect thousands of copycat attempts in the next year, though Ian Tapp, a longtime horseman who keeps tabs on the breeding market, says California Chrome’s success could produce an uptick in breeders in the colt’s home state, much the way the success of Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones 10 years ago fueled the horse business in his home state.

“It gives some people at the bottom end of the commercial market some hope that there is an ability for them to have a good racehorse,” Rogers said. “It tells them it doesn’t have to go to (trainer) Todd Pletcher and be raised in Kentucky and have all these other things that trend in favor of other horses.”

Rogers estimates about 40 percent of a thoroughbred’s potential can be predicted by genetics. After that, it’s up environment and then a roll of the dice.

“I know people who are obsessed with (winning the Kentucky Derby),” Powell said. “What a miserable life if that’s all your goal is — to live to try to obtain something that is really not attainable for the average person. They better be doing it for other reasons or it will eat their lunch.”

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Highway 12 project nears completion

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Goodwill opens Outlet Store in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Fairfield economic team announces addition

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

Premier post details of new lease

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
Il Fiorello to host jazz event

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

Partnership HealthPlan releases survey results

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
New doctors join NorthBay

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

Small earthquakes shake Solano

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

 
.

US / World

.

Opinion

Compromise on Cordelia Road rail crossing costs

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Justice for all

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Good job, Susan Winlow

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Source: 49ers OL Boone agrees to new 2-yr deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49er Ray McDonald accused of domestic violence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Kahne holds off Kenseth to win Atlanta shootout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Wozniacki outlasts Sharapova, in US Open quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Falcons looking to be defensive

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A’s frustrated after 8-1 loss caps sweep by Angels

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Ernst wins LPGA’s Portland Classic in playoff

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Giants power past Brewers 15-5 for 3-game sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Down at half, US beats Turkey in basketball worlds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Source: Chiefs’ Smith agrees to 4-yr extension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tony Stewart’s return to race track ends early

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sam clears waivers, meets with Fisher

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
FC Kansas City wins NWSL title over Seattle, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders claim DE Mayowa off waivers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jensen waived after Jaguars awarded TE Shuler

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Otto wins Italian Open; Gallacher comes up short

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Weather for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Henley takes a 1-shot lead at Deutsche Bank

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dunn dealt to A’s, could be his last shot playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Fred Couples wins Champions Tour event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Jerry Lee Trammell

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 6 Comments

 
Laurie Danielson Bailey

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Hazel Gertrude Wamsley

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Pickles Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Crossword Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Garfield Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7