Belmont Stakes Loss Doesn't Tarnish California Chrome's Brilliant Example

Penny Starr
By Penny Starr | June 7, 2014 | 9:45 PM EDT

After weeks of anticipation and debate whether "America's horse" would be the first in 36 years to win the coveted Triple Crown, California Chrome fell short, tying for fourth place in a field of 11.

But, his loss does not diminish the remarkable journey of an unknown chestnut colt that embodies the American dream.

California Chrome gallops out of starting gate. ( Starr)

California Chrome's journey began when two working class racing buffs paid a little more than $10,000 to produce offspring from the mare Love the Chase and sire Lucky Pulpit. His owners - Steve Coburn and Perry Martin - still have day jobs as small business owners.

They dubbed their racing partnership Dumb Ass Partners in acknowledgement of what others said were their chances of breeding a champion.

Not that they believed the naysayers. They believed in other things, including a strong work ethic and a horse they sensed was anything but ordinary.

In fact, the owners turned down a $6 million dollar offer for a 51 percent stake in the horse - before he won the Kentucky Derby. Reportedly, Coburn not only said no, but "Hell no."

''He was born on my sister's birthday,'' Coburn said in a June 6 article posted on where he referred to his horse by his nickname Junior. ''My sister Brenda died of cancer at 36.

"It's been 36 years since anyone has won the Triple Crown," Coburn said. "When I saw Junior, when I saw this baby, I just had a rush of emotion fill me."

"I told Carolyn, 'I don't care what it takes, I don't care what we have to do,'" Coburn said, referring to his wife and partner in this racing venture. "This horse is going to be something big and we need to make sure he gets to do what he's bred to do.' ''

And California Chrome is a winner - six consecutive wins this season, including the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

The jockey who rode California Chrome to those victories is Victor Espinoza, the eleventh of 12 children who grew up riding donkeys in Mexico. He paid for jockey school by driving buses in Mexico City and came to the United States in 1994 were he has since logged more than 3,000 wins.

On May 3, Espinoza won his second Kentucky Derby atop California Chrome.

But, like many contenders before him, the 1½ mile race - the longest in the Triple Crown - took its toll on California Chrome.

Yet, despite his loss, California Chrome will leave a legacy of rekindling the spirit of the American Dream in those who fell in love with him.

One beautiful chestnut colt with four stockings and a wide blaze that reminded a cynical world that, if you work hard and believe you can succeed, your dreams can come true. Even if that dream doesn't always end exactly as you'd hoped.

"This is a miracle story and we're blessed," Coburn said days ahead of the Belmont Stakes. "We're very blessed."