JC / Railbird

California Chrome

Perry Martin’s HOTY Speech

Perry Martin, co-owner of California Chrome, took the podium to accept the 2016 Horse of the Year award at the Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park on January 21, 2017. His speech is transcribed below.

We only have a few of our group up here tonight, so it’s not quite as bad as our winner’s circle pictures.

We won the older horse of the year award earlier tonight and everybody told me I did a wonderful job, so I’d just like to say, “Ditto.”

Also, when I rented this tux, I looked in the pocket, and there was this little packet of stuff in there, and it had three lines of writing on it, and the first line said, “Desiccant.”

Guy over here doesn’t know what that is.

Excuse me, sir, do you do the Beyer numbers for the Daily Racing Form?

Let me help you, the second line says silica gel. Still no clue? Now I know what the third line was for.

The third line said, “Do not eat.”

So now we know why that third line was on there. I was thinking, you know, I know babies like to put stuff in their mouths, but babies don’t know how to read, so it would be ridiculous to put that on there for them, so we know, I knew there was some segment, some segment of the population that needed that on there, and now I know it’s turf writers.

Turf writers are great. I learn a lot about myself reading the articles about me. I read at least three articles that said I had a dry sense of humor, and that’s why I had to go with a desiccant joke.

Turf writers really care about me. I can tell they care about me because they’re always asking me how I feel.

“Perry, how does it feel to win the Kentucky Derby?”

“Wonderful.”

“Perry, how does it feel to lose the Pennsylvania Derby?”

“Terrible.”

“Perry, how does it feel to win the Dubai World Cup?”

“Wonderful.”

“Perry, how does it feel to lose the Breeders’ Cup Classic?”

“Which one?”

“You pick.”

“Terrible.”

Does anybody see a pattern developing? Before I go too far — I actually have, since — you said we had a lot of time, right? — turf writers, at least three articles I read recently said that Denise and I live in Yuba City, California.

We haven’t lived in Yuba City, California since September of 2014. We moved to the beautiful, picturesque town of Alpine, Wyoming. Every morning I get up, have a coffee, look out my kitchen window, and the elk just look at me. It’s a lovely place.

But Yuba City is a special place. People ask me why we left Yuba City. Basically, the answer is, because we could.

Let me tell you about Yuba City. In 2014, Denise, me, my son Perry, Jr., and my daughter Kelly, who’s up here, we took the train to Churchill Downs, to the Kentucky Derby. People say, “Why did you take the train?”

What I do is failure analysis for the Air Force, I did a lot of crash investigation, and every night at the dinner table, I’d tell the family stories about what goes wrong with planes. So for some reason, my son won’t fly. I don’t know why that is.

So we took the train. And we were on the train — it’s an interesting story — one of our coworkers texted us a message saying you have to go to this link, there’s a story about you that the local news did.

The local news — we lived in Yuba City at the time — the local news stations were in Sacramento, California, and a lot of people in Yuba City don’t breed and own Kentucky Derby winners, or favorites for the Kentucky Derby. I don’t know why that is. But this was a unique thing, so they sent a camera crew out.

We were on our way to the Derby, on the train, and we watched this video. And here’s a reporter standing in front of our house, interviewing our neighbor.

And first thing I did was look at Denise and said, “I knew I should have mowed the lawn. I knew it.”

But the next thing I said was, you know, “They don’t seem to be able to separate us from mass murderers. Because that’s what they do for mass murderers, they send reporters to their house and they interview their neighbors. Well, people who have the favorites for the Kentucky Derby are treated the same way.”

So they rounded up our neighbor. She came out, and a reporter said, “How does it feel to live next door to the owners of the favorite for the Kentucky Derby?”

And she said, “The city of Yuba City animal control just cited me for having chickens in my backyard. If I can’t have chickens in my backyard, why can these people have a horse? That’s what I want to know.”

[Music begins playing.]

Chrome never lived in our backyard. He was at Harris Farms the whole time.

But that wasn’t enough for the camera crew. They went on their phones and they found a local hot spot, it was the Happy Viking bar. And they took the crew to the Happy Viking and interviewed everybody on the bar.

Is that music for me to get off?

Emotional Distress

Call the Chromies the Grumpies:

… many of them were not happy [California Chrome] spent most of this year overseas. I have read, heard or been contacted about everything from wanting to know if it is possible to sue majority owner Perry Martin for animal abuse since he had the horse leave the country, to people thinking no one in England has ever cared for a champion racehorse before and that is why Chrome’s season has ended in injury.

The short answer to all of this is: “No. Just no. Please stop.”

My goodness, sue? I’ll cop to doubts about the Royal Ascot plan for Chrome because I worried he wasn’t a top-notch turf runner who could keep up with his likely competition. But I also understood majority owner Perry Martin’s desire to show off his very good horse, and I like to think that I’ve grown more empathetic to the push-pull owners feel when they have a horse like Chrome — the impulse to be conservative and keep a horse doing what you know they’re capable of, versus the sporting urge to go anywhere in the world they can take you. Sometimes you follow the second and it just doesn’t work out.

If there’s anyone who can feel glum about Chrome’s 2015 campaign, other than trainer Art Sherman, it’s the people who make up DAP Racing, which is a partnership that has very publicly broken down in recent months. Steve Andersen reported on Wednesday that Taylor Made bought out Steve and Carolyn Coburn’s minority interest in California Chrome (DRF+). The colt will recuperate from his minor injury at Taylor Made’s Kentucky farm.

Sidelined

Jay Privman on California Chrome and his connections (DRF+):

… what I do know, from having watched this horse for the better part of his career, is that Art Sherman always showed that he knew what was best for California Chrome. He ignored people who said the colt should have arrived sooner at Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby, and those who said he needed to work between the Derby and Preakness, and those who questioned why he was running on grass after the Breeders’ Cup.

Sherman was not down with going to the Pennsylvania Derby — a pure money grab that left him a race short for the BC Classic — nor going to England.

Sherman was right an all counts, and it’s a real shame his probity wasn’t fully appreciated by those whose interests he, ultimately, was trying to look out for.

Heft and Gleam

California Chrome returned to the U.S. on Tuesday, his international adventure over. Four Footed Fotos caught him looking ribby on arrival from Newmarket via Amsterdam, but Marcus Hersh reports that he’s now out of quarantine at Arlington Park and already making a better impression (DRF+):

The long trip home this week surely did not help his appearance, but even after just two days here, the colt appears to be headed the right direction. I saw him this morning as he was being hand-walked by groom Raul Rodriguez around the barn of trainer Chris Block, his new digs upon leaving quarantine, and it sure looked like California Chrome already had added a touch of heft and a bit of gleam to his chestnut coat.

The Coburns released a statement about Chrome’s condition on Facebook:

Many people on several different social media sites have concerns about Chrome’s weight. It is our belief that he needs to put on about 150 pounds. We appreciate all of your concerns and hope that you all know that he is in the best hands with Raul and Anna. His health and well-being is our top concern and we are confident that now that he is home and with people he is familiar with things will only get better.

He’s pointing to the Arlington Million, and jockey Victor Espinoza assures fans: “You better believe I will be riding Chromie in the race.”

The Million is a mere five weeks away, though, and Chrome did miss running at Royal Ascot because of a bruised hoof. “It’s going to be a very tough race,” trainer Art Sherman told Art Wilson last week: “He’s going to have all the Europeans coming for that race. It’s going to be a lot to ask of him, I think, personally. I’m just hoping I can get him fit enough.”

7/14/15 Update: California Chrome is done for the year and may be retired. While being vetted for a potential stud deal (which farm?), a cannon bone bruise was discovered in the 4-year-old colt. It’s a minor injury, but it means at least three months off. Retirement apparently isn’t certain. Per a comment on the DAP Facebook page, which is managed by co-owners Perry and Denise Martin, “No one really knows if Chromes Career is over except for Chrome.”

Chrome Turns Right

California Chrome continued his prep for an anticipated start in the June 17 Prince of Wales’s Stakes, getting acquainted with the right-handed Ascot turf on Thursday. Frankie Dettori on how the colt handled the training session:

“We did seven furlongs,” Dettori said. “The whole idea, because he has been turning left all his life, was to get him at full-on speed round the turn to make sure he gets on his right lead.

“He was a bit surprised going into the turn. He didn’t know what was going on. Then he got onto his right lead, he learned very quickly and in the straight I asked him to quicken to make sure he knew that after the turn he was going to carry on.”

Here’s a photo of Chrome and workmate Aktabantay at the turn, and here he is in slo-mo, galloping past the finish line.

Despite saying that he expects the Horse of the Year to “be very competitive,” the rider will likely be on Western Hymn in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes.

Alan Sherman, in town to supervise for his father, trainer Art Sherman, wasn’t as positive (or diplomatic) about the American Horse of the Year’s chances:

“He’s running against the best turf horses in the world, so. Like I said, he’s a hard trier. If he’s not good enough, he’s not good enough.”

The elder Sherman is looking forward to Ascot for more than his horse — he’s hoping for an introduction to the Queen: “She loves California Chrome and the story behind him, so I’ve got a feeling we’ll get a chance to meet her.”

Chrome will return to the US after Ascot for planned starts in the Arlington Million, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Breeders’ Cup (race to be determined).

6/7/15 Update: William Buick has picked up the ride on California Chrome. “They wanted one of the good English or European jockeys and William beat them in Dubai so they know him and he’s available,” said trainer Rae Guest, overseeing Chrome while he’s in Newmarket.

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