California Chrome (CA)

California Chrome’s remarkable career on the racetrack was defined by exceeding expectations — and doing so in exquisite style. The chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit soared to heights his modest pedigree failed to foreshadow, reaching racing’s pinnacle multiple times during a fairytale journey that captivated millions of fans affectionately known as “Chromies.”  






Lucky Pulpit


Love the Chase


Not For Love


Perry Martin and Steve Coburn


California Chrome LLC


Art Sherman





Racing Record



Year Starts First Second Third Earnings
Year Sts 1 2 3 $
2013 7 3 1 0 $214850 $214,850
2015 2 0 2 0 $2100000 $2,100,000
2016 8 7 1 0 $8180000 $8,180,000
2017 1 0 0 0 $250000 $250,000


California Chrome’s remarkable career on the racetrack was defined by exceeding expectations — and doing so in exquisite style. The chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit soared to heights his modest pedigree failed to foreshadow, reaching racing’s pinnacle multiple times during a fairytale journey that captivated millions of fans affectionately known as “Chromies.”  

Bred in California by co-owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome was out of the Not For Love mare Love the Chase. The owners added a dash of self-humbling humor to the story when naming their partnership DAP Racing — Dumb Ass Partners — after someone questioned their intelligence when they purchased Love the Chase.

Trained by Art Sherman and ridden primarily by Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, California Chrome produced a spectacular career that included Horse of the Year honors in 2014 and 2016 and a record of 16-4-1 with earnings of $14,752,650 from 27 starts. His signature victories included the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Hollywood Derby (turf), Dubai World Cup, and Pacific Classic. He won 14 stakes overall and earned victories at seven different tracks.

“He took us on the ride of a lifetime. What Chrome did for all of us was something we could never have dreamed of,” said Sherman, who retired in 2021 after 43 years as a trainer. “He was a tremendous blessing for racing. Not too many horses come along like him. You see very few, if any, in a lifetime … and you’re extremely lucky if you get one in your barn. He was so special.”

California Chrome’s 2-year-old season in 2013 didn’t provide many glimpses of imminent greatness. He broke his maiden in his second career start at Hollywood Park, but his stakes performances that year were a bit uneven. He mixed victories in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar and King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood with disappointing results in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial (fifth), Del Mar Futurity (sixth), and Golden State Juvenile (sixth). The King Glorious victory (by 6¼ lengths) closed out the campaign in December and was the first time Espinoza was aboard. From that point forward, no other rider was ever in the irons aboard California Chrome.

“I liked him and I could tell he had a great mind,” Espinoza said of his first impressions of Chrome. “I wasn’t thinking he was going to be some megastar, but he was trained so well, found his form, and kept getting better and better all the time.”

Beginning his sophomore season in late January 2014, California Chrome announced his presence with authority on the trail to the Kentucky Derby. He won the California Cup Derby by 5½ lengths, took the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes by 7¼, and defeated Hopportunity by 5¼ in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. And just like that — with four consecutive wins by a combined 24¼ lengths — California Chrome was the favorite to win the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. He didn’t disappoint.

Espinoza settled California Chrome off the pace in the Derby. As the leaders began to tire, California Chrome moved near the front turning for home. He took the lead at the quarter pole and shook clear to lead by as many as five lengths before Espinoza geared him down. At the wire, California Chrome was 1¾ lengths clear of longshot Commanding Curve. With the victory, he became only the fourth Cal-bred to win the Derby, joining Morvich (1922), Hall of Famer Swaps (1955), and Decidedly (1962).   

California Chrome went on to defeat Ride On Curlin by 1½ lengths in the Preakness. None of the other Cal-bred Derby winners added a Preakness victory — California Chrome was in the record books. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who entered three horses in the Preakness, said, “I’m done chasing him. He’s super, the real deal.” Coburn said California Chrome had become “America’s horse.”

A Triple Crown, however, was not to be. California Chrome was stepped on breaking from the gate in the Belmont Stakes and suffered a cut that seemed to bother him throughout the race. He ran gallantly, finishing fourth, only 1¾ lengths behind winner Tonalist.

In The BloodHorse, Steve Haskin wrote, “When I think back ... the one image that will last forever will be of an exhausted colt walking back through the tunnel with a bloodstained foot, his head down and breathing hard, and every vein protruding from his sweat-soaked body. He had given every ounce of himself, and with it all, still was beaten only 1¾ lengths."

Following the Belmont, California Chrome was given some time off before finishing sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby and third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, both of which were won by Bayern. He then closed out his year with a bounce-back performance in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar. On the turf for the first time, California Chrome looked like his old self, defeating Queen’s Plate winner Lexie Lou by two lengths. After the race, Espinoza simply said, “He’s back.” With a record of 6-0-1 from nine starts and seasonal earnings of more than $4 million, California Chrome won the 2014 Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and Champion 3-Year-Old Male.

California Chrome’s 4-year-old season consisted of only two races — he finished second to champion Shared Belief in the Santa Anita Handicap and second to Prince Bishop in the Dubai World Cup — and the tumultuous year included physical ailments and ownership changes. A bruised hoof prevented a planned start in England at Ascot and more bruising was later discovered in his cannon bones, ending California Chrome’s season. Martin, who owned a controlling interest of 70 percent in California Chrome, intended to retire the horse to stud at the end of the year. Coburn, however, sold his 30 percent stake to Taylor Made Farm and an agreement was reached to race California Chrome for another year. After enjoying some paddock rest at Taylor Made in Kentucky, California Chrome returned to Sherman’s barn in the fall of 2015 to prepare for his 5-year-old campaign.

A rejuvenated California Chrome returned to the races on Jan. 9, 2016, defeating Imperative and Hopportunity in the Grade 2 San Pasqual. He then made a return trip to Dubai, where he prepped for the World Cup with an easy victory over the Meydan course in late February. Espinoza said California Chrome was “magnificent” in his second attempt at the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Breaking from post 11 in the field of 12, Espinoza and California Chrome settled comfortably into third early on, using four-wide positioning on the first turn and three-wide on the second to establish forward placement behind pacesetter Mshawish with Special Fighter in second. Espinoza’s athleticism and balance was called on as California Chrome’s saddle slid during the race, but the rider kept his wits and pressed on undaunted. California Chrome unleashed a huge run exiting the final turn and left the competition in his wake en route to a 3¾-length victory over Mubtaahij. With the win, California Chrome became the richest North American racehorse of all time. The $6 million winner’s share pushed his earnings to $12,532,650, surpassing 2008 Dubai World Cup winner and Hall of Fame member Curlin’s $10,501,800.

“I’m just elated. I’ve always wanted to run this horse as a 5-year-old, because that’s the best year a horse can have,” Sherman said after the race. “And in our world right now, we don’t have the handicap horses any more … I’m just so happy that it gives racing a big boost to have a horse like that.”

California Chrome extended his win streak to six with victories in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, Grade 1 Pacific Classic, and Grade 1 Awesome Again. California Chrome was especially dominant in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, defeating future Hall of Famer Beholder by five lengths. Knowing the victory was secure, Espinoza geared California Chrome down in the stretch. The time for 1¼ miles was 2:00.13. Track announcer Trevor Denman described California Chrome’s effort as “one of the greatest performances you’ll ever see.”

“I saw the hold he had on him,” Sherman said. “He was just cruising. It’s all over. Turning for home, (Beholder) was already under a drive trying to catch him. … That was the race. How can you say any more about him? That’s why he’s the best horse in the country.”

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who piloted Beholder, said, “Victor was playing with us. I don’t think he really let him run. That’s scary to think about.”

California Chrome’s win streak was snapped next out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Three-year-old Arrogate proved too powerful in the stretch for California Chrome to hold off in a half-length defeat. That December, California Chrome earned his 16th and final victory in the Winter Challenge Stakes at Los Alamitos, romping by 12 lengths. With a record of 7-1-0 from eights starts and seasonal earnings of $8,180,000, California Chrome was voted the Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male.

After finishing a disappointing ninth in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, California Chrome was retired. He began his stallion career that year at Taylor Made and resided there until the farm announced the 50-member California Chrome syndicate agreed to sell the horse to a company in Japan to stand him at Arrow Stud in Hokkaido. The American syndicate retained a right of first refusal and a provision that when California Chrome is retired from stallion duty he will return to America and live the remainder of his life at Taylor Made.


Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year — 2014
Eclipse Award for Champion 3-Year-Old Male — 2016
Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year — 2016
Eclipse Awards for Champion Older Male — 2016 

Triple Crown Highlights

Won the Kentucky Derby — 2014
Won the Preakness Stakes — 2014

Horse Profile for California Chrome | Equibase is Your Official Source for Thoroughbred Racing Information



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