Perry and Denise Martin knew they had something special only hours after their horse California Chrome was born at the Harris Farms in Coalinga three years ago.
"We got a call the mare is foaling, so we jumped in the truck and took off," Martin told News10 from his Martin Testing Laboratory at McClellan Park. "We got there two hours after he was born and he was already running circles around momma, and she was just spinning in place just watching him."
Three years later, California Chrome has become a rock star of the horse racing world. On Wednesday, he opened as the (5-2) favorite to win the Kentucky Derby after winning four straight.
The streak began in December of 2013 when jockey Victor Espinoza (2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner on War Emblem) began guiding California Chrome with a victory at the King Glorious Stakes. The streak continued in 2014 with wins at the California Derby Cup, San Felipe Stakes and most recently the Santa Anita Derby last April.
"Every race he keeps getting better," Martin said. "He is growing, he has put on more muscle, and believe it or not he is getting taller."
The Martins, who are from Yuba City, are first-time breeders along with their partners Steve and Carolyn Coburn from Nevada. They formed a partnership when they bought the mare Love to Chase.
"We were both in the barn at Golden Gate Fields looking at his horse," Martin remembered. "A groom walked by and he said you guys looking to buy this horse, anyone who buys this horse is a dumb ass. So we looked each other and said, 'you wanna go partners?' He said 'sure.' So we shook hands, dumb ass partners here we go."
Today, the initials D.A.P. (Dumb Ass Partners) are prominently displayed on their purple and green silks, while a picture of a jackass rides on the back of their jockey.
As the favorite, California Chrome may be the smart bet for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, but even so, the thoroughbred faces many obstacles.
A California-bred horse has not won the Kentucky Derby since 1962, and since 1980 only five favorites have won.
"Just getting to this point we were told it was impossible, so we are not too worried about it." Martin said.
UPDATE on Saturday, May 3, 2014 at 4:15 p.m.: California Chrome won the 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Read the story at http://on.news10.net/RfV7T9