The Grey Panel

Chrome’s class not just luck

With the winner having been bought for 32,000 guineas as a yearling, one could say that this year’s 2,000 Guineas was a result for the battlers. However, that would not be an accurate observation: he is owned by an international multimillionaire, has a blue-blooded pedigree and can only be regarded as inexpensive by the standards of Britain’s most costly yearlings, because 32,000 guineas is still a large sum to pay for a horse in a country where training costs are high and prize money, for all but the top races, is paltry. The same day, though, there genuinely was a landmark triumph for the underdogs, when landed an utterly dominant triumph in the Kentucky Derby. California Chrome’s story really is a fairytale, reminding us that once in a while racecourse dreams can come true: the humans around him are the antithesis of the major investors who generally monopolize the big occasions, while his pedigree gives virtually no clue to his merit. However, his sire (who was covering for around $2,000 when Steve Coburn and Perry Martin sent their $8,000 mare to him in 2010) now ranks as sire of a well-above-average winner of the Kentucky Derby, and clearly should be taken very seriously indeed, writesJohn Berry.

California Chrome’s Los Angeles –based trainer Art Sherman had paid one previous visit to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, accompanying the mighty on the long rail journey from California to Kentucky in 1955 when apprenticed to that great horse’s trainer Mesh Tenney. Sherman was very much in the background that day, but he subsequently rode around 1,500 winners as a jockey, and has been making a living as a trainer (firstly in San Francisco, more recently in Los Angeles) since retiring from the saddle. Even so, he surely never dreamed that he would train a horse of the calibre of California Chrome, nor that he would ever match Tenney’s feat of winning the Kentucky Derby with a California-bred.

There is an interesting connection between Swaps’ sire and California Chrome’s sire Lucky Pulpit. They were birds of a different feather in that Khaled was a top-class horse by the best sire in the world () from a mare (, winner of the Falmouth Stakes on Newmarket ‘s July Course and from the family which eventually produced such champions as and ) who had been top-class on the track and who came from an outstanding family; while Lucky Pulpit is considerably less distinguished as regards both performance and pedigree. However, both ‘made a noise’ – which is not ideal for a potential stallion, if one believes that wind problems are hereditary.

Hyperion-line stallions dominated the world for much of the 20th century, despite the fact that Hyperion himself never left England; in fact, he only left Newmarket on a handful of occasions to go to the races. There was, though, a diaspora of many of his sons and grandsons, which led to the phenomenal success of his line world-wide. His influence in America was largely through his sons and Khaled. The former was bought as a yearling by the film producer Louis Meyer before breaking down in training in California and then retiring unraced to stud, going on to establish himself as a hugely influential sire, most obviously as paternal grandsire of the five-time Horse of the Year , a son of the Alibhai stallion .

Like Alibhai, Khaled was bred by the HH Aga Khan III, grandfather of the present HH Aga Khan IV. Trained in Newmarket by Frank Butters, he raced for the Aga Khan in Britain in 1945 and 1946, winning the Coventry Stakes and Middle Park Stakes as a two-year-old and the St. James’s Palace Stakes as a three-year-old. However, it was clear during his Classic season that he was developing a wind problem: he had taken to ‘making a noise’, and it was an easy decision to retire him to stud sooner rather than later. His well-known wind problems put a question mark over his stud prospects; but Californian breeder Rex Ellsworth was not worried about that. Ellsworth dispatched his friend Harry Wragg, the former English champion jockey who had just begun training in Newmarket, to inspect Khaled, and Wragg reported that when the horse cantered across the paddock to see them, his roaring could clearly be heard. This did not, however, dismay Ellsworth, who bought him and took him home, thus starting a great success story in which Khaled bred many champions, often bred and owned by Ellsworth, including the mighty Swaps.

In his racing days, Lucky Pulpit was no Khaled – but he, too, showed signs of a wind problem. Khaled had won five of his eight races in Britain, including two which now carry Group One status, and was placed in two more top-class contests, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. (He also won an allowance race in California as a five-year-old after Ellsworth, undaunted by the fact that Khaled had already spent a season covering mares in Ireland as a four-year-old before he bought him, put him back into training during his first year in the States). Lucky Pulpit, by contrast, raced 22 times and won only three of these races, with only one of his victories coming in (ungraded) stakes company. However, as his trainer Cliff Sise recently reflected, he was a “pretty horse, natural speed, but he had a breathing problem and was ornery”.

Breathing problem or not, Lucky Pulpit raced honestly and well for an extended period, even if none of his later seasons proved as rewarding as his first one had been. He was in training for four years (2003 to 2006 inclusive, at ages of two to five) and fared best as a juvenile, when he won two of his six starts, taking a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park and an allowance optional claiming race at Del Mar, both over five and a half furlongs. He also finished second in the Pinjara Stakes over a mile at Santa Anita, beaten only a nose, and third in a Grade Three stake, the Generous Stakes over a mile at Hollywood Park, beaten two lengths by the winner, the subsequent Santa Anita Derby winner . He didn’t win as a three-year-old, but he was once again placed in a graded stake, finishing third in the Grade Two Santa Catalina Stakes over 8.5 furlongs at Santa Anita.

Lucky Pulpit won one of his eight starts as a four-year-old in 2005, taking a non-graded stake, the Smile Handicap over five furlongs, during some time he spent that year up at Arlington Park in Chicago. He only ran once in his final season, but that was a good run: second in the Sneakbox Stakes over five and a half furlongs at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. All told, he won three races and recorded 10 minor placings in a four-season, 22-race career, earning $209,928. Realistically, this was not a good enough record to make him a mainstream commercial prospect as a stallion, but he had proved himself a good, tough horse, effective from five furlongs to a mile, and sound enough to stand reasonably regular racing over an extended period. He retired to Harris Farms at Coalinga, California, in 2007, and found himself covering a limited amount of unremarkable mares at fees around the $2,000 mark. And from one of these mares he has bred the unlikely hero California Chrome, who deserves to be hailed as clearly the leader of the current Classic crop in the United States.

It would not be correct to describe Lucky Pulpit as a true blue-blood; but, even so, it does become considerably easier to understand how he can have sired such a champion when one looks at his pedigree. In fact, it was presumably as much his pedigree as his racing record which enabled him to find a place at stud. His sire over the years proved responsible for plenty of good horses (and, in fact, this year ranks as grandsire of the Kentucky Oaks winner as well as of the Kentucky Derby winner, with Kentucky Oaks heroine being a daughter of the Pulpit stallion ) while Pulpit’s sire and grandsire and were even more influential. Lucky Pulpit’s dam , a daughter of the dual Grade Three-winning filly , has also been a good producer, with her other offspring including the good stallion (sire of Grade One winner ) and the good broodmare , dam of Grade Two-placed juvenile .

Taking a slightly broader look at Lucky Pulpit’s family, the view becomes even better. Lucky Spell’s other daughters included Merlin’s Charm, winner in Robert Sangster’s colours of the Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot in 1982, and , dam both of the top-class racehorse and sire and of his full-brother , who never raced but who now ranks as sire of the seven-time Grade One winner . Furthermore, Lucky Spell was a half-sister to the Seattle Slew horse , a top-level winner on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 1980s and sire of a Group One winner () once his racing days were over.

One swallow does not make a summer, and Lucky Pulpit needs to sire other high-class horses if he is to rank up there with Khaled among the greatest legends of Californian breeding. However, by producing California Chrome he has already put himself into a metaphorical Californian stallions’ Hall of Fame, and he is clearly a much better sire than many would have predicted. While California Chrome is his only graded stakes winner to date, he is certainly not his only good son: Lucky Pulpit’s several other stakes winners include , and . The latter is a particularly admirable horse who has several minor placings in graded stakes company to his name including second in the Grade One Hollywood Futurity as a juvenile in 2011 and who is still showing solid stakes form this season as a five-year-old.

It will be interesting to follow Lucky Pulpit’s career henceforth. Having sired one truly outstanding horse from a seemingly ordinary mare, it is far from impossible that he could produce more very good horses. He is still aged only 13, and it is fair to assume that in the future he will be given much more assistance from mare-owners than he has been in the past.

Archived General News Stories

Bodemeister Shuttling for the First Time to Argentina Bloodhorse
Jump Start Garners 50th Stakes Winner Bloodhorse

Trap For Fools Edges Latrobe in Mackinnon Stakes Bloodhorse all news
Talking Horses: British curse in the Melbourne Cup is finally broken Guardian
Winx Becomes First Horse to Win Four Cox Plate Editions Bloodhorse all news
Redzel Does It Again! Sporting Post

Emcee Sold, Heading to Brazil Bloodhorse

Sheikha Reika Reigns in E.P. Taylor Stakes Bloodhorse

Verrazano Gets First Winner in Chile Bloodhorse

Arc and Dual Derby Winner Sinndar Dies at Age 21 Bloodhorse all news
Arqana to Handle Fares Dispersal Bloodhorse
Selective National Hunt session topped by €160,000 yearling son of Martaline T'internet
€265,000 VALAJANI tops opening session of Autumn Sale T'internet
Magician and Universal Switch to Haras de Corlay Bloodhorse
€960,000 for a share in Siyouni on T'internet
Siyouni Share, Showcasing Right to be Offered Online Bloodhorse
€360,000 Siyouni filly tops part I of October Yearling Sale T'internet

German Stallion Ranks Strengthened by Helmet Bloodhorse all news

Cracksman Ties Winx Atop Longines World's Best Rankings Bloodhorse
Romanet Re-Elected IFHA Chairman Bloodhorse all news
Winx Still Top-Ranked in Longines World Rankings Bloodhorse

Coolmore Wins Race to Secure Scat Daddy's Legacy Bloodhorse all news
Soldier of Fortune Most In-Demand Sire in Europe Bloodhorse
Son of the late Fame And Glory tops day one of the November NH Sale
The CliffsofMoher put down after suffering fractured shoulder in Melbourne Cup Guardian
Galileo Surpasses Sadler's Wells with 74th G1 winner Bloodhorse
Record Price Of €3.2 Million Tops Phenomenal Goffs Orby Sale T'internet
Phoenix Outguns Coolmore for Top Lot at Goffs Orby Sale Bloodhorse
Unbeaten Ten Sovereigns Lands Middle Park Stakes Bloodhorse

Shanghai Bobby Sold, Standing at Arrow Stud in Japan Bloodhorse
Lys Gracieux Wins QEII, a Bridesmaid No More Bloodhorse all news
Declaration of War to Stand in Japan in 2019 Bloodhorse

Racing: Nervous wait for Kiwi horses in Cup New Zealand Herald
Racing: Aussie options for tough NZ stayer New Zealand Herald
Racing: Shark attack causes a stir in Hastings sprint New Zealand Herald
Whanganui names its Horse of the Year New Zealand Herald

Proposed Saudi Arabian Race Could Rival Pegasus Purse Bloodhorse all news

Dynasty Son Legislate Back At Stud Sporting Post

Dubai World Cup Purse Raised to $12 Million for 2019 Bloodhorse

British Owners Honor Enable, Khalid Abdullah Bloodhorse all news
World's Best Jockey Dettori Still Looking Forward Bloodhorse
Tattersalls December Sale Ends On Positive Note T'internet
Juddmonte Fillies Dominate Third Day of Tattersalls December Mare Sale T'internet
Lester Piggott: Legendary jockey in hospital but 'in good shape' the Independent
Seven Top A Million on Second Day of Tattersalls December Mares Sale T'internet
Juddmonte Mares in Demand on Opening Day of Tattersalls December Mare Sale T'internet
Records Across the Board at Tattersalls December Foal Sale T'internet
1,700,000 Guinea Galileo Filly Heads Record Breaking Tattersalls December Foal Sale T'internet
Kingman Filly Sells for 370,000 Guineas at Day 2 of December Foal Sale T'internet
No Nay Never Filly Tops Day 1 of Tattersalls December Foal Sale T'internet
Too Darn Hot to Stand at Dalham at End of Racing Career Bloodhorse
Oasis Dream Colts Star at Tattersalls December Yearling Sale T'internet
Haydock Park was asked to alter fences before controversial Betfair Chase meeting Guardian
British Horseracing Authority weights blunder adds to catalogue of errors Guardian
Roaring Lion´s Introductory Stud Fee Set at £40,000 Bloodhorse
Cartier Nominees Announced Sporting Post
Cracksman to Stand at Darley's Dalham Hall Stud in 2019 Bloodhorse
Melbourne Cup won by British horse and British trainer for the first time Guardian
Record Breaking Tattersalls Autumn Horses In Training Sale Concludes T'internet
Corrosive Tops Second Day of Tattersalls Autumn HIT Sale at 450,000 Guineas T'internet
Roaring Lion to Retire to Tweenhills Stud in 2019 Bloodhorse
Luca Cumani: two-time Derby-winning trainer to retire after 43-year career Guardian
Gosden just Champion with Group One treble Irish Independent
Magical Lands First Group 1 in Fillies & Mares Stakes Bloodhorse all news
Tattersalls October Draws to a Close After Record Run Bloodhorse
Stradivarius Stars Again in Long Distance Cup Bloodhorse
Gosden Is Champion Trainer Sporting Post
Cracksman signs off with second stunning Champion Stakes success
Relief and joy for Roaring Lion connections after last-gasp success
Records as Tattersalls October Yearling Sale Book 2 Concludes T'internet
Siyouni Filly Heads Strong Second Day at Tattersalls October Book 2 T'internet
Kingman Colt Sells For 750,000 Guineas at Tatts October 2 T'internet
Capri set for Cracksman duel as Gosden opts to make late call on Lion Irish Independent
Praise and criticism for BHA as MPs debate equine welfare regulator Guardian
Too Darn Hot and Frankie Dettori strengthen 2,000 Guineas claims Guardian

Invasor Flourishing Back Home in Uruguay Bloodhorse all news
Honour and Glory Dies in Uruguay Bloodhorse
Roman Rosso Scores in Latinoamericano Bloodhorse

Three-Quarter No Nay Never Brother Stands In Maryland Bloodhorse
Mendelssohn Retires to Coolmore America Bloodhorse
Calumet Farm Releases 2019 Fees Bloodhorse
Dam of Pioneerof the Nile Dies at Age 24 Bloodhorse
Hall of Fame jockey Velazquez rides 6,000th winner ESPN
Curtain Falls on Marathon Keeneland November Sale Bloodhorse
Cloud Computing Retired to Spendthrift Farm Bloodhorse
Godolphin Wins John Deere Award for Outstanding Breeder Bloodhorse
Abel Tasman to sell at Keeneland January DRF
Unbridled's Song Filly Tops Keeneland Sale Session Bloodhorse
Lookin At Lucky Stud Fee Bumped to $20,000 Bloodhorse
Broken Vow Mare Tops Keeneland Nov. 11 Session Bloodhorse
Into Mischief Colt Leads Keeneland's Fifth Session Bloodhorse
Keeneland November: Day 3 Recap Bloodhorse
Californian Gary Broad Purchases Historic Walmac Farm Bloodhorse
Lane's End Sets Stud Fees for Strong Sire Trio Bloodhorse
I'll Have Another Returns to U.S. from Japan Bloodhorse
Fasig-Tipton November Sale Recap Bloodhorse
Lady Aurelia Lights Up Bid Board at $7.5 Million Bloodhorse
Juddmonte Homebred Expert Eye Grabs Breeders' Cup Mile Bloodhorse all news
Accelerate Finds Top Gear to win Breeders' Cup Classic Bloodhorse
Enable Makes History With Brilliant BC Turf Win Bloodhorse
Roy H Sails to Victory in Breeders' Cup Sprint Bloodhorse
Sistercharlie Edges Wild Illusion Late in BC F&M Turf Bloodhorse
Stormy Liberal Ekes Out BC Turf Sprint Repeat Bloodhorse
Monomoy Girl overtakes Wonder Gadot in BC Distaff DRF
Top U.S. Yearling Sales Up by $85 Million Bloodhorse
Game Winner Prevails in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Bloodhorse
Line of Duty Rallies Late in Wild Juvenile Turf Bloodhorse
Polydream, Awesome Slew Among Saturday BC Scratches Bloodhorse
Jaywalk wires field in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies DRF
Bulletin breaks on top and never looks back in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint DRF
Newspaperofrecord dominant in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf DRF
Breeders' Cup: O'Brien reports improving Mendelssohn in good shape Guardian
Union Strike Cataloged to Keeneland November Sale Bloodhorse
Dialed In, Shackleford Head 2019 Roster at Darby Dan The Blood Horse
Report of Mares Bred: Declines in Stallions, Breeding Bloodhorse
Sharp Azteca to Three Chimneys for 2019 Bloodhorse
California Chrome to Stand for $35,000 in 2019 Bloodhorse
Medaglia d'Oro Remains Atop Darley's Roster at $200,000 Bloodhorse
Accelerate Continues Reign Atop NTRA Poll Bloodhorse
Breeders' Cup Turf: Enable tops strong European contingent DRF
Diversify Will Not Run in 2018 Breeders' Cup Bloodhorse
Gainesway Releases Full 2019 Stallion Roster Bloodhorse
WinStar Farm Keeps Pioneerof the Nile at $110,000 Bloodhorse
Claiborne Releases Stud Fees; War Front's Fee Unchanged Bloodhorse
Sea of Class to Pass on Breeders' Cup for Time Off Bloodhorse all news
Fourstar Crook Gets Her Grade 1 in Flower Bowl Stakes Bloodhorse
Uncle Mo Colt Highlights Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Opener Bloodhorse
hhh Bloodhorse

Spies Rules In Zimbabwe Sporting Post