His name was drawn from a cowboy hat. California Chrome — California for his home state, Chrome for the horse racing term used to describe the white splashes on his coat — came flashing into the Thoroughbred racing scene in 2014 as an underrated three-year-old.
He astonished by winning two of the three classics for three-year-olds, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. He failed, however, to sweep the Triple Crown when he was beaten in the Belmont Stakes. His bid to become the first horse to win the three classics since Affirmed (1978) was ruined.
But his popularity went skyward with the American public even when his four-year-old season went awry in 2015.
In March of this year, with $6 Million in earnings already under his girth, he shipped to Dubai for the global World Cup — and won, taking over the all-time money earner title in North American Thoroughbred horse racing.
Up to the November 5 Breeders’ Cup World Championships Classic raced in the United States, the five-year-old California Chrome had remained undefeated in his 2016 campaign. Just by a neck, as he was caught in the final yards by Arrogate, California Chrome’s perfect season was snapped.
Only the third horse in history to win the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Cup, California Chrome remains in training to race one more time, in January of 2017 in America’s Pegasus World Cup. A victory there would put him in a class by himself.
Nonetheless, his money title of over $14.4 Million would seem secure for some time to come. The title had been held by Curlin, at $10.5 Million since 2008.
Photo from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg