03/28/2016 11:26AM

Lucky Pulpit team hoping for bump in business

Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club
California Chrome, a 5-year-old by Lucky Pulpit, wins the Dubai World Cup to boost his career earnings to $12,532,650.

Work came to a standstill at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The team had pressing matters to follow in the Middle East.

California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year, was raised at Harris Farms and was the favorite in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse. The staff attending to broodmares and the horses in training on the farm, about 20 people in all, gathered with farm manager Dave McGlothlin in a conference room for the telecast.

It was a familiar scene. Many of the same people watched from the same venue as California Chrome won the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

Like he did in the Derby, California Chrome opened up in the stretch of the Dubai World Cup, winning by 3 3/4 lengths.

“When he came around the turn and accelerated away, I thought, ‘We’ve been here before,’ ” McGlothlin said.

California Chrome earned $6 million for the victory, increasing his career earnings to a staggering $12,532,650, a record for a North American-based Thoroughbred. The milestone was not lost on the Harris Farm team as they went back to work.

“You all had a part in the richest horse in racing history,” McGlothlin told the staff. “It’s a great feeling. It’s great to have such a popular horse and a great ambassador for the sport.”

Harris Farms should benefit from California Chrome’s win. The farm stands Lucky Pulpit, California Chrome’s sire, for $7,500. Lucky Pulpit stood for $2,500 before California Chrome’s rise to prominence in 2014. For the 2015 breeding season, the fee was $10,000, but support dropped from mare owners, and the fee was lowered for the current breeding season.

In 2015, Lucky Pulpit was bred to 63 mares, according to Jockey Club statistics, a figure that the stallion’s backers hope will rise to closer to 80 for the current breeding season. Lucky Pulpit is owned by Larry and Marianne Williams of Idaho.

“We have the sire of the highest money-winning Thoroughbred,” said Dan Kiser, racing manager for the Williamses. “Hopefully, we’ll get a spike out of this; closer to 80 would be great. I think we’re on the path for that.”

Lucky Pulpit was the leading sire by progeny earnings in California in 2014 and was third last year in a season in which California Chrome made two starts, including a second in the Dubai World Cup.

This year’s race for leading stallion in the state is over. Lucky Pulpit has already set a single-season record of $6,609,604 for a California stallion and stood atop the national list through Saturday. For the rest of the year, Lucky Pulpit will have trouble holding off nationally prominent stallions such as 2015 leader Tapit, who has a deep group of runners.

California Chrome’s dam, Love the Chase, is no longer based at Harris Farms. She was taken to Kentucky last year and will be bred to Tapit this year.

Lucky Pulpit had three horses earn $100,000 or more in 2015. None of his progeny besides California Chrome won an important race last year, which makes it harder for him to attract mares.

“There was not a lot of other black-type horses that lit it up for him,” McGlothlin said.

Should there be a spike in mare bookings, the 15-year-old Lucky Pulpit can handle it. McGlothlin said Lucky Pulpit was bred to 128 mares earlier in this decade. This is Lucky Pulpit’s 10th year at stud.

“He can stand the pressure,” he said. “He’s a great horse to be around; great attitude in the breeding shed. He’s a happy horse.

“That’s an impressive statistic to have the all-time leading money earner.”

Harris Farms stands eight stallions. The success of California Chrome has given the farm a higher profile, and that is not lost on farm owner John Harris.

“There are a lot of farms out there, and all are trying to do the same thing,” Harris said. “This farm got lucky. It’s very rewarding.

“He’s really America’s horse. He’s built up quite a following since he was a 2-year-old. He sure rises to the occasion.”

Kiser, the racing manager, and his wife spent part of Saturday afternoon on a horse ride. He watched the replay of the Dubai World Cup a few times through the day, admiring on each occasion how jockey Victor Espinoza kept California Chrome together – and in front – through the stretch despite a saddle that had slipped back.

“It make me nervous every time,” Kiser said. “Down the lane, you could see the saddle slipping back. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, don’t move.’ I was surprised how easily he won it.”

California Chrome is due back in the United States on Thursday. He will clear quarantine in Chicago before a vacation at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky. Taylor Made owns a minority share of California Chrome. The majority owner is Perry Martin, who bred the colt with Steve Coburn. Last summer, Taylor Made bought Coburn’s share of California Chrome with the intent of standing him at stud in 2017.

Later this year, California Chrome might start in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 20 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. If California Chrome wins the BC Classic, his earnings would soar past $15 million, a figure that would be hard to surpass anytime soon.