California Chrome’s Soliloquy

September 21, 2019

Cannot believe it’s been almost seven years since I stepped unto the California horse races scene. Around that same time I met you and your family in Coalinga, California. You and your son were picture of perfection and your mood was caring, gentle and honest. On the farm, there was the most beautiful filly I had ever laid eyes on. She was adorable, kind and had a soothing effect in her move. She was my best friend. Over the next six months, I longed to be with her and could think of nothing else but her beautiful, bright, hazel eyes. The warmth of her nuzzle made me crazed for more. After the move to Inglewood, I called for her almost every day just to hear her voice – but heard yours instead. You taught me how to be calm and to ignore the quiet noise inside my head. You told me I am bigger than my problems. You showed me kindness and compassion; then we clicked as happiness seeps back into my regimen and I became an integral part of your family. 

Although I flashed talent, visitors at the barn said I wouldn’t amount to much because I was born with a little good, lots of bad and some ugly. We knew the odds were stacked high, probably 17 hands against us. The challenges were great as we set forth upon that historic stage trying to turn the page of my unflashy heritage. We lived on the opposite side of blue blood country where bloodlines are weak, because dads are poor and moms are cheap. Although I was bred within Cal-bred zone, shining brighter than the Golden State was my skin tone. So was my future as I longed to be with the filly of my dreams.  She had moved to the plush Bluegrass state of Kentucky while I took up residence at Hollywood Park deep within the pulsing heart-beat of Inglewood. She was from a perfect family with perfect matches, well bred by owners with salacious intent while I was just a riff-raff in South Central L.A. Residence at your barn was only a few rungs above homelessness and at night loneliness was my only companion. Night sounds of rap music streamed in from my solitary neighborhood and brought forth waves of solace that calmed me into slumber. Welcomed echoes of California Love reverberated through the old barn walls and that song still lingers in my ears to this day. Also, remembered the occasional jumbo jets pointed to LAX squealed disturbing engines directly overhead. I knew back then if I was ever to see her again, I had to absorb the training and be the best racehorse ever. Each morning I stretched on the backstretch and skipped to the rhythm of music in my head. Without ear-pods, I danced freely and moved to the cadence of its beat. Finally, I had it, from furlong to furlong, four feet fly effortlessly with ease as I glided over polytrack.

“They clocked me and watched me, chrome shining looking like I robbed Liberace.”

Sometimes we feel as if we are smashed against life’s greatest despair. We feel like we are up against mountains of misery and insurmountable obstacles that are impossible to overcome. When hopelessness invaded my thoughts, my trainer remained calm. He never gave up on me. I ran to his command because I have never seen a sign of adverse emotions nor bitterness in his persona. He was always reasonable, friendly and yet unconventional. Above all else, Art was art. Still remember when I won my first stakes race at Del Mar, he convinced me I was Grade One material. After some mistakes and a few setbacks, I got to know a new friend in Victor. He came along at just the right time and I learned how to breathe and relax. Then I became the most photographed horse on the oval. Like a writer of California horse races wrote, “Clicking cameras continuously capture California Chrome’s canter”. I posed for photographs again and again as naysayers became carefully mum about my ancestry. Prior to races, I constantly hear how their breeding was above me, during the races all I heard was labored, heavy breathing behind me. I beamed with pride, as my image burns bright in printed columns and magazines. For five straight months I was untouchable like Eliot Ness. I heard Art when he said I could do a mile in 1:33; I heard him tell everyone who would listen that I can even run on grass. In the Pacific Classic from the rail, against the post and a good field, I ran the 2,000 meters in 2:00 minutes flat. I was on cruise control; they were weak and weary as if cloaked in ‘coat of mail’ and full of fatigue. Looking back now, it seems impossible what we have accomplished. Over $14 million in four years of fun. I’m recognized worldwide from Del Mar to Dubai as a money making machine. Only now pedigree pundits, who once eschewed my heritage, are using my name in breeding presentations. Only now they are talking about two crosses of La Troienne in my mom’s ancestry (from Numbered Account) combines well with Seattle Slew. Before I ever ran, nobody noticed and Art didn’t care if it was worthy or not. They are saying it is a special mix since Seattle Slew, from my dad’s top side, also adds multiple crosses of La Troienne, how ironic, considering my dad died not too long ago scraping meager earnings at the bottom of California’s stud fee. 

The good news is I have reunited with my long last filly. I am now allowed to visit her. Now I have a chance to dance and dazzle in a different way, knowing my fans will be there to cheer me on regardless. “California dreaming, soon as I stepped on the scene I’m hearing Chromies screaming”. There was a time when I heard the dream was impossible, now I know I can do anything and go anywhere. Slipped saddle or bareback, I refuse to lose because I have faith in me. I am bigger than my troubles and Art’s different approach made a difference. I ran to my heart’s content for him. With his praise and blessing and four years of winnings, we made it to the pinnacle of partnership. He never doubted me even when I was bumped, bruised and battered in the Belmont. He trusted his instincts and allowed me to continue competition at the very top. He believed in me and because of that, we were able to fulfill that dream. He has enriched my life, sanctioned his vast talent so I was able to master my craft. Because of his caring kindness, calm cool-headedness, I am now welcome in the Bluegrass state of Kentucky to be with my long-lost filly and start a new dynasty. Again, we will quiet the naysayers once more. Thanks Mr. Sherman, you really are an Art. Love you Man!

By: Herman Lammey

Congrats @jonathanstettin ! That’s why ur the king!

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