Stackin’ Cheddar: Looking Back on Graduation Day for California Chrome

Two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome earned his first career stakes win in July 2013 in the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar. (Eclipse Sportswire)

This marks the latest edition of “Stackin’ Cheddar: Looking Back”, a new biweekly series on America’s Best Racing. Here, we’ll look back on an early race in the careers of some of the greatest horses of all time, including spots where they went off at a big price.

July 31, 2013

Graduation Stakes

Race 7, Del Mar

California Chrome is one of the great rags-to-riches stories in racing history. He was a homebred for owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, and sired by the nondescript stallion Lucky Pulpit. He broke his maiden impressively in his second career start on May 17, 2013, at Hollywood Park, then finished fifth in his stakes debut in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes at the same track on June 15.

For his next start, California Chrome was entered in the Graduation Stakes for California-breds at Del Mar five weeks later. The race attracted six other Cal-bred 2-year-olds, none of whom made much of an impression on the betting public. Everyone in the race went off between 3.10-1 and 8.90-1. California Chrome was the 6.20-1 fifth choice.

He broke on top, then was taken off the early pace by jockey Alberto Delgado. As they rounded the far turn, he began to advance three wide after the leaders. He took control as they moved past the quarter-pole and pulled away in the stretch to win by 2 ¾ lengths. He ran 5 ½ furlongs on the synthetic main track in 1:03.48, and paid $14.40 to win.

After defeats in his next two races, California Chrome began to hit his best stride. A victory in the King Glorious Stakes in December started a six-race winning streak that included wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Although he finished in a dead heat for fourth in the Belmont Stakes, ending his bid for the Triple Crown, California Chrome had plenty left to give on the track. He won four more Grade or Group 1 races in his career, including the 2016 Dubai World Cup. His career earnings of $14,752,650 rank him third among American-bred horses, trailing only Arrogate and Gun Runner.

1. California Chrome $14.40 7.00 5.20
2. Moving Desert  6.80  4.20
3. Gangnam Guy   3.80

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