A recent visit to California Chrome, as told by Jaclyn Johnson.
Originally published at Into The Bluegrass on February 13, 2017:
I thought he would be the first Triple Crown winner of my lifetime. Unfortunately, fate would have another plan for him. But his career is a remarkable one that will be talked about for years to come. He was a cheap horse, and frankly, pretty common by a lot of different standards. But he was fierce, and fast, and lovable. He was “the peoples’ horse.” Arrogate may reek of class and speed, but Chrome was a story that attracted non-racing fans and as such, made the sport better.
“Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and this one was no exception. California Chrome, a proven champion and formidable competitor, reminded us that it doesn’t matter from whence we came but rather how we dance when we get to the ball. Furthermore, his inspiring story and engaging popularity reached beyond the racetrack stands and into the conversation of a nation.
— Penny Chenery, announcing the 2014 Secretariat Vox Populi Award
I finally got to visit Chrome in person this weekend. He is at Taylor Made Farm, enjoying a grassy paddock and luxurious stallion quarters. He seemed happy to be in a different environment, but still race fit and alert. He is full of sass and nibbles, head tossing and curiosity. The day I visited he had just covered his first mare. He isn’t huge like a lot of stallions that have been standing for years. But he has the biggest presence of any stallion on the farm.
I am excited to see what his progeny look like. While he is unconventional in a number of ways, I have always loved his way of going. Conformationally speaking, he is not a textbook illustration of picturesque physique. However, he has all the intangibles and a number of physical qualities that I think will make him an excellent sire… hopefully for sport horses. It will take several years for us to know for sure. His first crop will have to be born, sold, race trained, and retired before we will have any data on the matter. But I suspect in four years’ time, we will see Chromie babies in the jumper ring and the eventing world.
The angle of his shoulder is pretty remarkable. The way he is able to move through his neck suggests that his progeny may have incredibly light and dexterous front ends, making them superb jumpers. But again — just a guess.
The most notable of Chrome’s characteristics is that he is smart. And that is something that is hard to put a value on.
Time will tell.
My name is Jaclyn Johnson (although those of you that knew me as a kiddo know me as Meg Johnson, which is some cruel joke my parents played on me — making me go by a name that isn’t actually my name at all). I am constantly battling the reality that I can no longer wear bows and jods in the show ring, and I have actual bills to pay. My discipline de préférence is the hunters, although I admire and follow many others.