Monday, 15 June 2015

The California Chrome Effect

California Chrome is a horse people love to talk about. No one wanted to shut up about him during last year's Triple Crown season, we kept talking about him in his end of the year Parx-Breeders' Cup-Del Mar turf campaign, and his international travels have kept him as America's most talked about horse (sorry American Pharoah.)

     But here's something you didn't know about California Chrome: over exposure to him makes people total jackasses. Yes, it's shocking, but California Chrome might be the most dangerous horse humanity has ever seen.

     Let's roll back a year, to Belmont Stakes 2014, to Steve Coburn's epic "coward's way out" rant.

Now, Coburn had been outspoken through the whole campaign, but he had never said anything that made himself look like an outright jerk. After a five week Triple Crown campaign, spending more time with his horse than ever, he blew up.

      Although Coburn had lost some fans, most people still had the utmost of respect for Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman. Small stable, humble, family operation, the kind of guy you want to cheer for. But both Art and his son Alan made themselves look a bit less likable after it was announced that Chrome would race at Ascot. "I would have never done it myself," "They don't realize the horses that are going to be involved, they go counterclockwise, he's got to learn to go the opposite way, and everything. It's going to be rough on him, I think." and various comments about the horse's weight based on training videos. I understand there is some legitimate concern about the horse (although we didn't seem to hear these comments before the horse raced in Dubai on the dirt) but most people would be thrilled just to have to opportunity to race at Ascot, especially a little guy like Sherman. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Chrome fans started an online petition demanding
Chrome not race at Ascot and return to the US
      But the truest example of how this horse makes people say crazy things comes from the "Bring Chrome Home" wing of Chromies. It was announced that Chrome would (almost certainly) not race at Ascot this week after coming up with a bruised foot. The reaction from this group of die-hard fans was interesting. 
Chromies react to their favourite horse coming up injured
      I have been around horses all my life, and I have consistently gone into the racetrack to work on the backstretch for six years. I have worked for a handful of long time trainers, and have spent time with hundreds of various horses working for various people. In my time, I have NEVER thanked God that one of my horses was injured, even with something so minor as a foot bruise. I have also NEVER heard racing fans complain that a horse was training and planning on racing in England, which is generally thought of as the ideal country for a horse to train and race. I have NEVER heard that switching from going counter-clockwise on dirt to clockwise on turf caused horses to be injured. Maybe these people are right, but this is the craziest sounding talk I've heard from racing fans that I have ever heard.

       I have come to the conclusion that something about this horse will make people literally go crazy. Too much of a good thing, I suppose. I'm not saying that no one should be a fan of this horse, but I am saying enjoy California Chrome in moderation. Be responsible. If you find yourself thanking God that a horse is injured, you may want to get yourself checked out.


  1. You hit it right on the head. These are not fans of horse racing. They're fans of themselves and being "right."

    1. They are like pre-teens who idolize boy band members. They cannot separate reality from wishful thinking. They cannot accept that this colt is not as special as they would like him to be.

      It does not take 2 years to train an American horse to run in the UK. Heck, the colt just ran 10f in March, so why would he need 2 years more years to condition?

      The fact that most Chromites choose to disparage American Pharoah's accomplishments is proof they are no fans of the sport. No, they are children in need of a long time out.

  2. Not all of us Chromies feel this way about the race. I see it as a great opportunity for Chrome to learn something new and expand his training in a new direction. And as for Mr. Sherman being less likeable. He is a very kind man and is only looking out for Chrome's best interest.

  3. Unfortunately, most people let their mouths overload their brain. It would be more conducive to constructive discourse if people would express disagreement and doubts about various issues in a less confrontational manner. Too bad that some seem to think that being combative is more preferable than a polite but vigorous exchange of ideas and thoughts and opinions. Little do people who "blast off" into cyberspace realize they are revealing more about themselves and their own insecurities. In "shouting" their opinions, more often than not, they wind up being boring. No one wants to get into verbal fisticuffs with someone whose only form of expression is to toss hand grenades and then scurry back to the anonymity of their little cyber-cave. It is always good to slow down, take a deep breath, and while you are pointing your fingers at others to take a look at where the remainder of your digits are pointed. Someone once observed that while everyone has a right to their opinion as a part of free speech, there is no such right to be heard.

  4. I've got a padded room lined up for these people.Rents cheap

  5. This was a great opportunity to learn real turf racing from the people who know it best . I was keen to see how this type of conditioning would translate in a racing scenario for Chrome. It is a great honor to race at Royal Ascot and I believe Chrome was up to the task . Such bad racing luck for this to happen now .However Im happy it was discovered sooner rather than later . Perhaps Chrome will still be able to run in another race in the UK as a prep for Arlington .The Brits deserve to see Chrome in action .I dont think all Chromies are crazies .It is just extroverts always stand out more than introverts . What ever Chromes fans are loyal and worldwide .Good luck in healing California Chrome .

    1. There are plenty of opportunities to learn about turf racing without developing a pathological one-sided relationship with a horse and his connections.

      Royal Ascot is still going on without Chrome. I realize that may come as a surprise to Chromies, but the event was not cancelled with his withdrawal.

      This colt's attempt to run at Ascot after Dubai was not as "out of the box" as the Chromies think. It was done just a couple years ago by Animal Kingdom who actually managed to win the Dubai Classic. He did finish up the track at Ascot, but his stud ticket was already stamped by returning to the winners circle over older horses on multiple surfaces.

      Unlike Chrome, AK was trained by Graham Motion, a trainer who grew up training in the UK, and who was familiar with the process. Chrome on the other hand was trained by a lower-tier trainer for whom graded stakes were novel, and international racing unknown. He went then to a lower-tier UK trainer, more eager for the notoriety than experienced in converting an American dirt horse into a UK turf runner.

      Why did they not consult with someone like Wesley Ward, who has had very good success getting American runners to win at Ascot?

      Most of us like this colt. One does not have to be obsessed with him to like him. What separates the Chromites from the regular fan is their lack of reason, lack of knowledge of horses or the sport, and lack of touch with reality.

    2. Chrome's exercise rider in the UK is a friend of the Shermans and worked for them previously, so that may have been a factor in the choice of the Newmarket yard Chrome came to for training.