He's a West Coast prodigy, but California Chrome's roots reach deep into Maryland. Both the dam and one grand-dam of the Preakness favorite were foaled and raised on a 70-acre farm in Chestertown. The owners, Tom and Chris Bowman, couldn't have imagined the outcome of their breeding before California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.
"This is a storybook thing that we're watching right now," said Tom Bowman, 72, a horse reproduction veterinarian who owns Dance Forth Farm. "Call it retrospective genius. Hindsight never misses."
In 1993, the Bowmans and a partner, Milton Higgins III, then of Olney, now of Hawaii, purchased a broodmare named Chase The Dream and bred her to Polish Numbers, a Maryland sire who stood at Northview Stallion Station in Cecil County. She begat the filly Chase It Down, who bombed at the racetrack.
Twice, Chase It Down was put on the market at Timonium horse sales. Both times, her owners changed their minds and bought her back. Finally, Chase It Down was bred to Not For Love, a world-class stud at Northview. That tryst produced Love The Chase, whom they sold as a yearling. She would foal California Chrome.
"I can't say that we planned this," Bowman said. "It's more happenstance than anything. But it's a pleasure to have been involved in the process."
Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman, also has Maryland racing ties. Then a 22-year-old jockey, Sherman made headlines at Bowie Race Course in 1959 when he rode an obscure horse named Tinkalero to three consecutive stakes victories.
A 4-year-old mare, Tinkalero had been offered for sale for $2,000 the year before, with no takers. But she exploded under Sherman, winning the Abraham Lincoln Stakes — the first stakes victory for the jockey as well — and then, nine days later, capturing the Burch Memorial, defeating all-male fields in both races.
"She's small, but all heart," Sherman said of his mount.
On March 7, with Vice President Richard M. Nixon in the stands, Sherman rode Tinkalero to victory in the $25,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap.
"Many of the [horse's] followers were ready to tear up their tickets when Tinkalero dropped the lead on the far turn after being as much as three lengths in front in the opening quarter mile," The Sun wrote. "However, they regained hope when Sherman found new life in his mount and she pulled away again on the turn for home."