JC / Railbird

Horse of the Year

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?

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.”

Wise Dan’s Return

The Horse of the Year is set to make his first start of 2014 today, and:

“If he is going to be vulnerable, this is it because the others that are in there have been running,” [trainer Charlie] LoPresti said.

True, but he’s also a returning champion. The odds are good that he’ll win. In 2010, I found that returning champions beat the winning favorites average by a significant margin when they made their first starts of a new season.

The stats for returning champions are now updated through 2012: You can view the numbers and complete spreadsheet via Raceday 360. There are a couple of changes in this year’s version: I restricted the data to only starts made in North American races with wagering (horses who returned in non-wagering exhibition races and foreign races were excluded, as were steeplechase champions). I also broke out the numbers by division and decade this year, as well as by class, which revealed a few interesting tidbits.

One thing I left out of the R360 post, but wanted to make note of, is that all champions, not only the favored, won or finished in the money in 186 out of 228 races (or 82% of starts). Be sure to include them in your exotics.

The original data, including all champions named from 1971-2012, and not only those who returned to race, can be downloaded as an Excel file.

4/12/14 Update: And Wise Dan wins the Maker’s 46 Mile by three-quarters of a length over Kaigun. Here’s the returning Horse of the Year chart, updated:

That brings the returning HOTY record to 18 wins from 23 starts (18 wins from 22 favored), for a total payout of $49.10 on $46 bet.

He Was the Best

And now he’s in the Hall of Fame.

There was some grumbling on Twitter about 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Invasor, with his career record of 11 wins from 12 starts, being among this year’s inductees into the Racing Hall of Fame — “No offense to Invasor, who was very good in several races,” tweeted Marcus Hersh, “but if he’s a Hall of Famer, I kind of fail to see the point of the HOF” — but this Invasor fan heartily approves that the world-traveling, world-beating Argentine-bred will be enshrined in Saratoga. Nine of his wins were in Group 1/Grade 1 races, spread across three continents. That’s exceptional.

Back in 2007, Hall of Fame voter Bill Finley wrote, “When the time comes, I will have a hard time voting for horses like Invasor …” Earlier this year, writing of his ballot, his position seemed less conflicted: “Invasor’s career was a brief one but he was the dominant horse of the middle half of the last decade.” Finley was obviously not alone in his evolution — that Invasor was a first-ballot Hall of Fame pick suggests that as careers have grown shorter, more guardians of the game’s history have begun to rethink what makes a horse plaque worthy.

A Perfect 25

Why Black Caviar is the right horse for this moment:

In short, the vibe when you watch a Black Caviar race is one of assurance. The absolute certainty that Black Caviar is indisputably better than those around her.

This is no small thing. In this age of online commentary and social media, everything is up for debate. Everything can and will be refuted by someone, somewhere, and with venom.

You can’t troll Black Caviar.

She’s so freaky good, she converts even the skeptical: “[Black Caviar] takes us away from our daily grind … like some 21st century Pegasus.”

And now she’s 25-for-25, the winner of a record 15 Group 1 races in Australia after the T. J. Smith Stakes. “Her odds of $1.14 made her unbackable.” Did anyone care? “You’re beautiful,” they shouted when she entered the paddock.

More Black Caviar at Randwick on Saturday here, in this fantastic album posted to Facebook by photographer Bronwen Healy.

4/17/13 Update: Black Caviar has been retired.

– – – – – 

On Friday, Horse of the Year Wise Dan (pictured here in the post parade) returned a winner in the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland (the odds were in his favor). He looked eager on the backstretch, but waited for rider Jose Lezcano’s cue to go. “He wanted to go on, but I wanted to slow him down,” said Lezcano. “I waited as long as I could, but he’s a champion, you know.”

The win was a relief to trainer Charles LoPresti: “I did not want this horse to get beat today. I would have been really sad if he got beat today.”

1:00 PM Addendum: Beyer speed figure of 99 for Wise Dan, via Dan Illman.

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