Experience California’s connection to the Run for the Roses
By Susan Laird, Village Life Newspaper
May 1, 2016
The first weekend in May in America is reserved for the Sport of Kings — thoroughbred horse racing. For 142 years, aficionados of this pastime have turned their eyes to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby.
The Run for the Roses is the first jewel in the Triple Crown of horse racing. The other two jewels are the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes in Upstate New York.
The field is starting to take shape for this year’s “fastest two minutes in sports.” Fate and hard work will determine if the bookies in Las Vegas are correct about their favorites: Nyquist, Exaggerator and Mohaymen.
Each team representing the potential 20 horses starting in the Derby are hoping against hope to achieve what American Pharaoh accomplished last year: winning the Triple Crown.
There are other tensions in horseracing, including an ongoing debate about the quality of horses in the East and in the West.
California possesses a long tradition of horseracing, going right back to the days of the caballeros in Spanish California. In the last century, a horse named Seabiscuit captured the attention of the nation.
In 2014, it was a colt named California Chrome. The California Museum in Sacramento is currently hosting an exhibit celebrating Chrome and his accomplishments called CA Chrome: A Race for the Dream.
Chrome was foaled in Coalinga in 2011. He had a rather unremarkable career until 2013, when he paired with jockey Victor Espinoza.
The big chestnut colt and his jockey went on a six-race winning streak from 2013 to 2014.
California Chrome was the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby in 2014. Despite criticism that a western horse couldn’t do it, Chrome won the Derby by 1 ¾ lengths — with Espinoza easing him the last 70 yards of the race.
The Preakness Stakes is a sprinting challenge. Chrome showed he could handle that, too, fending off two challengers in the backstretch and winning by 1 ½ lengths.
At the Belmont, Chrome was the odds-on favorite. But fate is rarely kind. Another horse stepped on Chrome’s foot as the horses broke from the gate. No one knew he was injured. California Chrome finished a disappointing fourth.
However, this spirited horse is not down for the count. He continued racing. Recently, California Chrome won the 2016 Dubai World Cup, worth $10 million. He is slated to run in this year’s Breeder’s Cup before retiring, hopefully in Northern California.
With his most recent win in Dubai, Chrome is now the all-time leading North American horse in earnings won. Not too shabby at all.
The exhibit at The California Museum includes a life-size replica of Chrome as he appeared in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs. Espinoza’s silks from the Preakness are also on display.
The real draw for lovers of horseracing is the trophies. Most people never get to see these up close. Chrome’s trophy from the Kentucky Derby is handcrafted from 14-karat gold and sits on a jade base. His trophy from the Preakness Stakes is a sterling silver replica of the original Woodlawn Vase that is on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The exhibit is small, but well worth the visit. Most exhibits at The California Museum are small, often on loan from California families or other museums. They are fascinating and exclusive. In fact, The California Museum is like a buffet filled with delicious hors d’oeuvres. Filling and oh-so-satisfying.
You will be back for more.
CA Chrome: A Race for the Dream runs through Sept. 25. The California Museum is located at 1020 O St. in Sacramento. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, closed Monday. Admission is $9 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and students with ID, $6.50 for youth ages 6 to 17, and free for children ages five and younger.
During the week, metered street parking is available. Hourly parking garages can be found on 10th Street between P and O streets, as well as between L and K streets.
Free parking can also be found across the street from the museum on weekends. (Please note: that lot will be closed May 21 to 22 for the Amgen Tour).
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