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Apr 03, 2015

Up the Backstretch: Shake-up in California Chrome decisions

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


 Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Something is going on with the management team of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome.

Perry Martin, the majority owner of "Chrome," has apparently taken over the decision-making role for the 4-year-old chestnut horse, exerting control over co-owner Steve Coburn and trainer Art Sherman.

Martin, up until now the quiet member of the team, issued a statement that appeared Wednesday on Bloodhorse.com about the reasons for sending his champion thoroughbred to England to race after finishing second in the Dubai World Cup.

"I do not believe that this trip is a mistake. However, I freely admit I have made one mistake in the management of Chrome," Martin said in the statement. "I wanted to travel to Dubai early and prep in one of the Challenge races there. This is a proven formula that allows the horse more time to recover from the long trip and gives him the benefit of a race over the surface.

"Both (trainer) Art (Sherman) and (co-owner) Steve (Coburn) wanted to prep in the San Antonio (Grade II) against Shared Belief. The argument was that the matchup was good for racing. I did not want to disappoint them, so (I) abstained. This was an emotional decision and it was wrong. This time, we will do what gives Chrome the best chance to win. This time, I've got Chrome's back. Hopefully, after a bit of time has passed, I'll know team Chrome has my back.

These final two paragraphs in the release show a clear difference of opinion between Martin and his partner Coburn and Sherman. Martin's objective, as expressed earlier in the statement, is to set "Chrome" up for his post-racing career as a stallion.

"Managing the racing career of a stallion prospect is much different than managing a gelding or a mare," Martin said. "The considerations for selecting races are: the notoriety, surface, distance and sphere of influence. Many in America overlook that last one.

"Breeding of horses is an international business with many regional niches. Stallion value can be increased by demonstrating superior performance at different distances and over different surfaces at elite venues. Royal Ascot is such an elite venue and we are honored to be invited. The opportunity is not without risk - however, I believe the risk to be minimal.

"Chrome's bloodlines descend from A.P. Indy. This line is known for superior dirt performance. However it is looked down on by the regions of the world dominated by turf racing. Chrome's stallion value is currently very low in these regions and we really do not have to worry about it going lower with a loss at Royal Ascot. A win would help to demonstrate that the outcrosses in Chrome's breeding have been beneficial to turf performance. Yes, U.S. turf is different from the turf at Ascot - exactly why it is important for us to go."

Coburn and Sherman clearly were looking at American racing when they decided to have their colt start in the San Antonio on Feb. 7 versus Shared Belief, the 2013 champion 2-year-old male. The race was a good one as Shared Belief overtook "Chrome" down the stretch to win.

However, Martin had his sights set on the World Cup. The running of the $10 million race was similar to the San Antonio with "Chrome" relinquishing the lead and finishing second.

"Main Sequence demonstrated very clearly that poor performance in Europe does not affect perception much in the U.S. He received two Eclipse awards after four U.S. turf wins. It seems to me the downside is limited to the loss of a quarter of the 2015 season, if unsuccessful," Martin stated.

Travel has not been a problem for Chrome as he went from California to Kentucky to win last year's Kentucky Derby and then on to Baltimore to triumph in the Preakness Stakes.

Martin has a plan for his colt and it could be that after California Chrome retires from racing he will be shuttled between the United States and another country for breeding purposes.



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