05/03/2014 9:05PM

Kentucky Derby: Win for California Chrome casts pedigree in new light

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John Bambury
California-bred California Chrome rolled in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening at Churchill Downs.

Much has been written about California Chrome’s pedigree over the past three months, ever since the 3-year-old son of Golden State stallion Lucky Pulpit drew raves with a 5 1/2-length victory in the California Cup Derby on Jan. 25 at Santa Anita. The scrutiny only intensified afterward, as California Chrome in succession took the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in dominant fashion to head into the Kentucky Derby as the clear favorite.

Analyses of California Chrome’s breeding focused on the modest race and stud record of his sire and on the captivating, up-from-the-boostraps tale of his owners and breeders Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, who purchased the colt’s dam, the Not for Love mare Love the Chase, for $8,000. California Chrome’s bloodlines and backstory thus only added to his outsider allure, and the colt’s authoritative 1 3/4-length win Saturday under the twin spires in Derby 140 is a rubber stamp for one of horse racing’s most repeated, yet sometimes forgotten adages: a good horse can come from anywhere.

California Chrome adds to A.P. Indy’s luster by becoming the third Derby winner in the past five years to carry a strong influence from Lane’s End’s living legend. A.P. Indy’s son Malibu Moon sired last year’s victor Orb, and A.P. Indy is also the broodmare sire of 2010 Derby hero Super Saver via his productive daughter Supercharger. California Chrome’s grandsire, the late Claiborne Farm stallion and 1997 Derby fourth-place finisher Pulpit, already had a reputation as one of A.P. Indy’s most successful sons at stud, and California Chrome’s elevation of Lucky Pulpit to a Derby sire only enhances the multi-generational power.

Love the Chase won one race, a maiden claimer at Golden Gate Fields, and earned $7,020, accomplishments so ordinary that others discouraged Martin and Coburn from purchasing her. However, there are founts of stamina to be found in the mare’s pedigree.

Her dam Chase It Down – California Chrome’s second dam – did not produce a stakes winner, but is a half-sister to Amourette, twice a stakes winner at 1 3/8 miles and the dam of Grade 3-placed turf router Lemonade Kid. Chase It Down and Amourette are out of Chase the Dream, by Sir Ivor, a stakes winner and Grade 3-placed at 1 1/16 miles.

Broodmare sire Not for Love brings another of America’s fertile breeding sectors to the equation, as the superbly-bred son of Mr. Prospector has been a constant presence at or near the top of Maryland’s sire list this century.

Coburn was quick to point out in the post-Derby press conference that California Chrome’s dam Love the Chase is also inbred 5X5 to Swaps, the 1955 Derby winner that was exercised by a 16-year old future jockey – and future Kentucky Derby-winning trainer – named Art Sherman.