Last year’s Triple Crown chase was a celebration of this state. The horse even had California (Chrome) in its name. It was bred here, raced here and both its trainer and jockey live here.
As for American Pharoah, not so much.
American Pharoah was actually bred in Kentucky, considered the top breeding state for thoroughbreds.
He started his career in California running his first race as a maiden on Aug, 8 of last year at Del Mar. He finished fifth, the only loss of his career.
About a month later, he ran his second race also at Del Mar and won the Del Mar Futurity. (Futurities are races run for 2-years-olds and Derbys are restricted to 3-year-olds.)
His next stop was Santa Anita on Sept. 27 when he won the Frontrunner at Santa Anita. That was his last race in California.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who runs his stable out of Santa Anita, had a pleasant dilemma. He had another promising 2-year-old named Dortmund. If he were to keep both horses in California, they would be running against each other during the prep races early this year.
He decided to keep Dortmund at Santa Anita and shipped American Pharoah east, where he ran his two Derby prep races at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Of course, Pharoah then put himself in this position by winning at Churchill Downs and Pimlico to set up the potentially history-making race at Belmont.
Baffert hasn’t announced any plans for American Pharoah after Saturday’s race, but one possibility is the horse would take some time off and come back to California and point to the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in the fall.
Finishing off the California connection is jockey Victor Espinoza, who makes his home racing the Southern California racing circuit of Santa Anita, Los Alamitos and Del Mar.