If California Chrome wins the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 7 at Belmont Park, he would become the first California-bred Triple Crown winner and just the fourth horse bred outside of Kentucky to sweep the three classics.
Three other horses foaled away from the Bluegrass State have won the Triple Crown: Texas-bred Assault in 1946, Virginia-bred Secretariat in 1973, and Florida-bred Affirmed in 1978.
California Chrome, already the first Cal-bred to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown, is the first horse for his breeders Perry Martin and Steve Coburn. The son of California-based sire Lucky Pulpit is the first foal out of Love the Chase, who Coburn and Martin purchased for $8,000. Like the three previous Triple Crown winners bred outside of Kentucky, California Chrome is campaigned by his breeders.
California Chrome could not be more tied to the state his name carries. Love the Chase made all six of her career starts in Northern California, winning just a maiden-claiming race; while Lucky Pulpit made his first 13 career starts in Southern California, earning graded stakes placings in the 2003 Generous on the turf at Hollywood Park and the 2004 Santa Catalina at Santa Anita Park. At ages 4 and 5, Lucky Pulpit raced outside of California, earning his lone stakes win in the Smile on the turf at Arlington Park, before returning to the Golden State where he would stand at Harris Farms in Coalinga. In 2010, his stud fee was just $2,500.
Oddly enough, if California Chrome were to win the Triple Crown, it would mean four of the past six horses to sweep the classics were bred outside of Kentucky.
The most recent Triple Crown winner, Affirmed in 1978, was bred in Florida by Louis and Patrice Wolfson's Harbor View Farm. Harbor View already was well established before Affirmed came along, finishing as the country's leading breeder in 1970 and '71 and ranked among the top ten breeders in 10 of the 11 seasons before 1978.
In the 1970s, the Wolfson's Harbor View Farm in Ocala, Fla. was home to about 150 broodmares. The Wolfsons also kept some broodmares at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.
Affirmed's dam, Won't Tell You, by Crafty Admiral, was sent to Exclusive Native who stood at Spendthrift, but she returned to Harbor View to foal. Himself a Harbor View homebred, Florida-bred stakes winner Exclusive Native finished as leading sire in 1978 and '79. Won't Tell You also produced stakes winner Love You Dear.
Patrice Wolfson recently recalled how Won't Tell You returned to Florida to foal Affirmed and how much her late husband loved the Florida breeding program.
"He loved the ground, he loved Florida-breds; so at that particular time he was really anxious for some Florida-breds," Wolfson said, adding that the Triple Crown winner was special for the Sunshine State. "Oh, I think it was wonderful for Ocala, for Florida."
The 11th Triple Crown winner, Affirmed is the only Florida-bred to sweep the classics.
When Meadow Stable homebred Secretariat became the first Virginia-bred to sweep the Triple Crown, he kept the ball rolling for Meadow which also bred (and raced) 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva Ridge.
Riva Ridge was not foaled in Virginia; like many of Meadow's horses, he was born at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. But Secretariat's dam Somethingroyal delivered Secretariat at Meadow in Doswell, Va.
Meadow was founded by Christopher Chenery, whose daughter Penny took over operations as his health failed and he died in January 1973. When later that year Secretariat won the Derby, Meadow became the fourth breeder and third owner to boast consecutive Derby winners.
Secretariat is by Bold Ruler, a Preakness Stakes winner and Horse of the Year who would finish as leading sire eight times. Somethingroyal, by *Princequillo, also produced stakes winners Sir Gaylord, First Family, and Syrian Sea.
The first horse foaled outside of Kentucky to win the Triple Crown was King Ranch's homebred Assault, still the only Texas-bred to sweep the three classics.
While the first six Triple Crown winners had been bred in Kentucky, the breeding of Assault isn't exactly an underdog story. The Kleberg family's King Ranch covered approximately 1,500 square miles and sprawled over four Texas counties. Ranch president Robert Kleberg Jr. had made important contributions to the Lone Star State's livestock industry, developing grasses that would fare well in Texas weather.
According to a 1946 Blood-Horse story, on the equine side, Kleberg began breeding Quarter Horses who would be useful on Texas ranches. After some 15 years of breeding Quarter Horses, Kleberg's interest would turn to Thoroughbreds--in a big way.
While King Ranch had some mares in Kentucky, most of its 50 mares were kept at home. And the farm stood several stallions, including Assault's dual classic-winning sire Bold Venture. King Ranch purchased 1936 Derby-Preakness winner Bold Venture in 1940 and stood him in Texas, making Assault a Texas-sired Triple Crown winner as well.
Assault's dam, Igual by Equipoise, also produced stakes winners On Your Own and Postillion.