Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner California Chrome may be the pride of the California-bred program, but the classic winner's female family has deep roots in the home of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Love the Chase—dam of the Lucky Pulpit colt—is by Not For Love, Maryland's 10-time leading sire, out of a mare by Polish Numbers. Both sires have called Northview Stallion Station near Chesapeake City, Md., home.
The saga began when Dr. Thomas Bowman, a former owner of Northview Stallion Station, and one of his partners, Milton Higgins III, were looking to add some quality broodmares to their program. The reproductive veterinarian's approach was to seek mares with quality that could offer value in the sales arena due to spotty breeding records that might put off some buyers.
Higgins signed the ticket for the stakes-winning Chase the Dream, third dam of the Derby winner, at the 1993 Keeneland November sale for $52,000. A two-time stakes winner by Sir Ivor, in foal to Chief's Crown, she had produced one foal and had been barren in 1990 and 1991, barren to the cover of Risen Star in 1992, and had aborted her foal by Risen Star earlier in 1993.
"She was in foal but did have a spotty history that might have worried a lot of people," Bowman said. "We were going to gamble on my veterinary skills and see what I could do.
"We specifically bought her to breed to (Northview stallion) Polish Numbers (Danzig—Numbered Account, by Buckpasser). I wanted to take this big, strong mare that could go a distance and breed her to some old-fashioned speed and try to get something in between."
First, though, Chase the Dream was bred to Opening Verse and then El Gran Senor, producing three-time stakes winner Amourette before delivering Chase It Down, by Polish Numbers, in 1997. Offered at sale twice, Chase It Down made nine starts for Higgins and Bowman Stable, breaking her maiden at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in her seventh try.
"She just wasn't any good," Bowman said of Chase It Down. "But we loved the family. We bred her more than once, and we were pretty discouraged with the results. I can remember a couple of foals we were pretty high on that really didn't turn out so we sold her and we kept the Not For Love filly (Love the Chase) and that turned out to be the dam of California Chrome."
Love the Chase was sold to agent Greg Gilchrist for $30,000 by agent Cary Frommer at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds.
She went west, and the rest is now Derby legend.
Love the Chase is inbred 3x3 to the Phipps foundation mare Numbered Account, who is the third dam of Not For Love and the dam of Polish Numbers. Bowman's breeding theory is about class...and convenience.
"Anytime we felt we could increase the quality of a pedigree by including one of these foundation mares—whether it's La Troienne or Numbered Account or you could go on and on—we just thought it was something worth doing. Outside of that, the biggest reason for breeding Not For Love to a Polish Numbers mare is because they were right there (at Northview). It didn't take a genius to figure out I had shares in Not For Love and I had shares in Polish Numbers. It wasn't this great academic exercise."
According to The Jockey Club, Bowman wasn't the only one going to the well. There are 34 registered foals by Not For Love out of Polish Numbers mares. And Bowman takes his place in Derby lore in stride.
"I'd love to see the horse win the Triple Crown, and I'd like to say we touched an animal that was involved in all of this. We have something to tell our friends and that's where it ends."
The original version of this story appears in the May 17 issue of Blood-Horse Magazine. Order a single issue or subscribe.