presents Derby Dreams: California Chrome

by | 03.26.2014 | 10:27am
Perry and Denise Martin (left) and Steve and Carolyn Coburn

Most owners, if they found themselves with a horse like California Chrome that showed such exceptional talent and potential in the spring of his three-year-old season, would naturally have Derby dreams. For Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, those dreams actually began three years ago.

“I knew he was going to be a special horse the first time I saw him, when he was a day old,” said Coburn. “I told (my wife) Carolyn, ‘This is going to be a special colt. I just hope we can afford the ride.' We've had Derby dreams since he ran his first race.” One could say Coburn's Derby dreams began even earlier than that.

“I had a dream two weeks before he was born,” he said. “I got up out of bed and told Carolyn that I had had a dream about the baby, it was going to be a colt, and he was going to have four white stocking feet and a blaze face. That's how he got his name, California Chrome.”

Martin also realized he had something a cut above the ordinary the day the colt was born. “We got the word that the mare was foaling, and we got there a couple hours after he was born,” he said. “He was already up and jumping around and running circles around momma.”

Coburn and Martin now find themselves in the enviable position of heading down the elusive Derby Trail. Incredibly, they are heading there – in their first real venture into racing – with a horse they bred and for which they recently turned down $6 million for 51 percent. But they are just a couple of ordinary guys.

“You tell people about the (racing) industry, and all they see are the big hats and big suits and big money,” said Coburn. “But 85 percent are just like me and Perry; they start small. We were taking money out of our savings and retirement to keep this horse going.”

Trainer Art Sherman, jockey Victor Espinoza and connections in winners' circle of San Felipe Stakes

Trainer Art Sherman, jockey Victor Espinoza and connections in winners' circle of San Felipe Stakes

Coburn, a native of Arizona, moved around the Southwest in his youth, working at an oil and gas refinery in Bakersfield, gunsmithing, and serving two stints in the US Army. Nearly two decades ago, he and Carolyn settled in Gardnerville, Nev., where Coburn works for JCP Enterprises, a manufacturer of magnetic tape for credit cards.  Carolyn works in the medical field. Theirs is a simple lifestyle.

“We live 11 miles from our post office and 20 miles away from the closest grocery story in a rural area of Nevada,” Coburn explains.

Martin, an Illinois native who grew up in Chicago, fell in love with horse racing at an early age.

“A friend took me out to the races when I was 16, and I loved it,” he said. “After I had a driver's license, I took myself! I always dreamt about owning a horse.”

Martin now lives in Sacramento, where he and his wife, Denise, operate Martin Testing Laboratories. Realization of his ownership dream began with a five percent interest in a racehorse with a Blinkers On partnership.

Martin and Coburn bought Love The Chase outright from Blinkers On when the racing partnership they were part of was being dissolved upon her retirement. The two men met for the first time at Golden Gate Fields, shook hands and formed a new partnership that they named DAP. Martin explains, “When Steve and I decided to purchase her, a groom walked by and said, ‘Anyone who buys this horse is a dumb ass.'” Hence, the name Dumb Ass Partners.

The two men and their wives have since become the best of friends. The partners then bred Love The Chase to Lucky Pulpit, resulting in California Chrome – her first offspring. She now has two full sisters to California Chrome on the ground.

The next few weeks may provide a wild ride for them. California Chrome will make his next start April 5 in the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby – the premier West Coast prep for the Kentucky Derby.

“I wake up every day and hope he's in good health,” said Coburn.

“It's hard to think about anything else right now,” added Martin.

Derby Dreams California Chrome-001

  • TJS

    With all the negative going around it is a breath of fresh air to read this story. Good Luck Boys!

  • Terri Z

    What a terrific story about a great horse and his connections. How cool is it that his trainer, Art Sherman, was the exercise rider for Swaps. And he compares California Chrome to Swaps. I hope that this gives racing in California a boost. This is what racing should be about.

  • Andrew A.

    Good to see Mary writing again. Great story. I hope California Chrome does well.

  • Craig

    If this horse stays healthy he is going to win the Kentucky Derby

  • William L. Anton

    I have been friends with Art for MANY years and wish nothing but the BEST for him and his owners. As for Mary, she has always been a favorite person of mine since meeting her years back during the TOC meetings. As for California Chrome and his connections, I only hope he lives up to his expectations and RUNS away with the Roses the first Saturday in May.

  • Knowitall


    Awesome story, what the sport is also about. Hope they take some money off the table with a partner that lets them retain control, though. (If that number is correct, valuing a Gr. 2 winning CA bred by Lucky Pulpit out DAP at 12mil tells you just how fatal Derby Dreams can be…)

  • Delrene

    What a breath of fresh air to read this article. Absolutely love California Chrome! Wishing him and his connections the best in his Run for the Roses. Will be there for the Santa Anita Derby. Stay healthy and safe…. Would love to know what he is called around the barn? CC? Love the story of the evolution of the partnership name.

  • lcc

    Wish them all the best. Here’s to Derby dreams . Hope they win woukd be a refreshing end and show that anyone can win fair and square

  • Boknows

    Such a Great story!! I wish them the Best! May God Bless California Chrome with Health, Happiness and a Great 3 year old year! I do have that suspicion this might be a rags to riches story! Maybe another Wise Dan!! God Bless and will see you at the Kentucky Derby!!!

  • Dee P.

    I absolutely love this horse, but I’m concerned about the distance of the TC races. Tapit and Pulpit aren’t usually good at distance, but I sure hope this colt proves me wrong. I’ve sure enjoyed watching him race.

    • John Malone

      Those of us involved in the retirement of COST OF FREEDOM would like to wish CALIFORNIA CHROME all the best in this Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. From one small breeder to another. Let’s show the world that California can raise some pretty darn good horses too.

  • Mimi Hunter

    Definitely my version of the American Dream. So glad to see someone actually gets to live it !!

  • Olebobbowers

    If I wasn’t already rootin’ my fool head off for Art Sherman and his family, now I can gladly enjoy rootin’ for these humble owners also! I’m so glad they chose Art to train CC. He’s a clean cut ole timer and really deserves a top notch Derby contender. Prayers said from this lifelong race tracker for CC as well as his connections. It is also so refreshing to watch a horse that actually loves his ‘job’.

  • MaryAnn Myers

    Great article! Yeah for the little guys!

  • Great story! I’m a huge CC fan!

  • slinkyleia

    Congratulations and Good Luck to all!

  • delmarla

    Another ‘good ole boys story’….love it! I didn’t know Art galloped Swaps….excellent horseman!

  • crookedstick

    This story reminds me of Mine That Bird. I can only hope that Martin and Coburn are nothing like Allen and Blach. Blach is Expert Witness for Valley Meat Horse Slaughter, which is two minutes from his Breeding Barn. Allen is complicit by his silence.

  • injoewetrust

    Can someone change the settings on the original Paulick Report facebook post to include the “share” option directly from facebook? Ever since the latest fb re-design, I’ve noticed most news & group pages no longer have a share button, only like and comment.

  • Bob Dillman

    Well, now we know better. Carolyn Coburn thought she was going to get a free ride. Steve Coburn just dissed everything about horse racing. okie, dokie….

  • SarahAieden

    The only thing that I don’t like about Martin is that he is not a family man. He is all about his business rather than children.

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