California Chrome, bred, and initially owned, by Perry Martin and Steve Coburn and trained by Art Sherman, had the distinction of being named American Horse of the Year twice, in 2014 and 2016. Of his 26 races between 2013 and 2017, he won 16, including the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Dubai World Cup and four other Grade 1 contests, and earned over $14.75 million in total prize money.
A great grandson of A.P. Indy, American Horse of the Year in 1992, California Chrome finished sixth of 11, beaten 2 lengths, in the Del Mar Futurity, over 7 furlongs, as a juvenile, but it wasn’t until stepped up to middle distances in his three-year-old campaign that he started to make his mark at the highest level. In 2014, he won his first five starts, including the Santa Anita Derby – a first Grade 1 win for trainer Art Sherman – the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
Consequently, he started odds-on favourite to win the third, and final, leg of the American Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. However, despite holding every chance on the outside at the two-furlong marker, he was soon ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza and faded late on to dead-heat for fourth, beaten 2 lengths, behind the winner Tonal. A review of the start of the Belmont Stakes revealed that Matterhorn, in stall 2, had struck into California Chrome, in stall 3, as they broke from the starting gate, forcing the favourite to race with a soft tissue injury and superficial tendon damage.
In July 2015, Steve Coburn sold his minority share in California Chrome to Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Farms, necessitating the formation of a new partnership called California Chrome LLC. The following year, California Chrome won three more races at the highest level, including the Dubai World Cup, but his final race, the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, was an anti-climax. Sent off 6/5 second favourite, he was never really travelling and trailed in ninth of 12, beaten 30 lengths, behind Arrogate, who had beaten him just half a length in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park the previous November.