Sunday, October 4, 2015

Meeting California Chrome at Taylor Made Farm :)

So did you guess the mystery famous champion racehorse?

California Chrome, currently at Taylor Made Farm - Jessamine County, Kentucky, October 3, 2015 (video below). 

California Chrome's Stall and Plaque for his stay when at Taylor Made Farm, Jessamine County, Kentucky

California Chrome winning The Preakness Stakes, 2014

After spending the day with California Chrome on private tour at Taylor Made Farm, Mark and I can now personally confirm that everything you've heard about Chromie loving cameras, attention and people is true. (His mother became sick as a baby and he was hand-nursed by people.)

As is evident in both the top photo and the one below, the moment you pull your camera up to your face, he knows what he's supposed to do - Chromie will proudly hold his head up high, stand stock still and look you straight in the eye until you take the photo (proof that horses are incredibly intuitive and intelligent:)

(Lest there be any doubt it's California Chrome, take a look at the nameplate on his leather halter;)

However, you better be quick with that photo, because he's a big ball of energy - and unlike most horse farms, Taylor Made puts their horses out in paddocks to have free run/play time rather than cooping them up in stalls all day - too much stall time has now been proven to result in more cannon-bone injury

And the moment you put that camera down, it's "show time" again - he will immediately run around in circles for you, kicking up his heels and faux-charging, pawing at his arrival as if to say, "Yes, I am awesome - you must praise and touch me now, and give me treats."

Audrey said he had been antsy, dancey and posey for them all day, when they came round, and she honestly believes he misses people attention because he's been so isolated for recuperation lately - she believes he's trying to tell us he's ready to run again (thereby pleasing people :)

But Chromie will not dance on cue, no - it's Chromie who eventually decides when he will dance for you again, as if to say: "Now ees the time at Taylor Made ven vee dance..."

Now here's what I found interesting and proof of how intelligent and intuitive horses are - Chromie had paused from his little frolic just for a moment to paw in front of the camera, let Mark pet him again and take a bit of apple, while listening to all of us (watch his ears move around - he knows everything that's going on around him, believe me).  However, he must've been able to tell by my voice inflection I was asking him to kick up his heels again for the camera, because right after he took the bit of apple, he took off like a shot again, running straight back to me with the camera.

BTW -  the reason Audrey asked me about my hand at the end of the video is because we were told  Chromie is also famous for giving pretty hard "love bites" that mean nothing, not that he either likes you nor dislikes you, it's just what he does - and I was no exception.

Regardless, in case you can't hear my answer, I said, "I'm fine, it's kind of an honor, I guess, if you're going to be be bitten by a horse...(it should be California Chrome:)

I'm going to pretend it means he liked me ;)

He loved to rear up in front of Mark, though Mark never prompted him.  We decided this is because Mark is just above jockey height and he figures this is what he's supposed to do when jockeys are present, show 'em what he's got :)

(Note he's looking straight at Mark when he rears up, as if to say "Are you my jockey? I'm ready, let's race again so people cheer for me again.":)

In this next photo, Mark is on my right side and he rears for him again...

Well, Mark was actually too tall to jockey, but he is an experienced rider - he was once on the  O'Connor 3-Day Eventing Team,  led by Karen and David O'Connor, both former Rolex winners, with David having taken home Olympic gold and Karen, Olympic silver.

Here's Mark/Detroit in a cross-country trial with his other baby, besides Factor), "Dunston Celtic" (nicknamed "Blade.").

Unfortunately, Bladie passed away in 2008 due to colic, so Mark never got to Rolex - but he's never stopped riding and loving horses, giving pointers and riding whenever he can:)

As mentioned yesterday, we received word that we would be given the opportunity to receive a private, guided-tour of Taylor Made Farm, the finale of which was meeting Mark's personal hero, California Chrome.  Unfortunately, though we tried as quickly as we could to bring along the children with Central Kentucky Riding for Hope along with us, but it was too late to arrange the type of transportation necessary.  (However, Chromie will be back in the Spring and we're already making plans.)

He was more excited to meet Chromie than he was meeting Wise Dan in August, if you can believe that.  He wore official DAP/Chromehead Breeder's Cup T-shirt I bought him as one of his birthday gifts last year, under his jacket,  and he missed several turns while trying to find the farm on just a 5-mile trip. At one point, I thought I was going to have to take along a tank of oxygen and sneak in some bourbon in a flask just in case he could not contain his excitement any longer.

For those of you unaware of California Chrome and why he was so popular in America, despite not winning a triple crown, a brief synopsis...

... much like Seabiscuit, California Chrome came from very humble beginnings and from so-so stock.  With a hit-and-miss pedigree, being a little smaller than the big boys, and foaled by a mare that cost $8000, bred with Lucky Pulpit for $2000 - all at the hands of a team of virtual nobodys (a racing partnership literally named "Dumb Ass Partners") - clearly, nobody expected much out of Chromie.

And when looking at the mediocre pedigree and lack of experience of "Dumb Ass Partners" with race horses, all of the big name trainers - Baffert, Pletcher, Lukas, McLaughlin -  said "Um, no, thank you."

But when former jockey-turned-trainer Art Sherman agreed and used his former-jockey pull to persuade fellow jockey, Victor Espinoza, to ride him - and the rest was history :)

Then California Chrome started winning - and he kept winning - until he was the new great hope to be the first horse to win the first triple-crown in 37 years, after winning the first two jewels in the crown, The Kentucky Derby and The Preakness.

However, at the last jewel race of the crown, The Belmont, tragedy struck - right out of the gate, California Chrome was severely injured.  But despite having an injury like this...

... Chromie kept running anyway, coming in 4th.

The following year, a series of ownership disagreements and back-to-back racing decisions revealing DAP's inexperience resulting in weight loss and a few important losses, and finally an cannon-bone injury just days before he was to run in the Prince of Wales Stakes in the Royal Ascot, 2015. (But he did get to meet Queen Elizabeth? :)

At that time, the rocky ownership between outspoken Steve Coburn and Perry Martin came to a screeching halt, and Taylor Made Farm bought Coburn's 30% share of the horse.

They had Chromie examined at the world-famous Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital here in Lexington, Kentucky, who determined the cannon-bone injury was due to too much stall time and too much weight loss while overseas. (FYI, our vet for Factor is also with Rood and Riddle;)

So he's been resting here at Taylor Made, eating delicious Kentucky Bluegrass, and he is now back to being fattened, sassy and ready to race - and unlike many, Chromie is not only clearly ready to race again, he clearly loves to race and the people attention he gets from doing so.  So he will return to Art Sherman's training in California and will most likely will race in Dubai next spring :)

Needless to say, we are now big fans of California Chrome and Taylor Made farm, after they have taken such good care of America's beloved Chromie :)

Are we surprised?

We are not - because Taylor Made Farm raised this year's Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah:)

(Note:  AmPhar's name was misspelled with the "o" before the "a" on his official racing pedigree form, so the misspelling is "official.")

Mark and me at the front gates of Taylor Made Farm :)

Main offices of Taylor Made

Main office lobby

In case it's not clear by the stone fireplace and the home-like exterior, Taylor Made Farm has been family owned every bit of its 39 years, and it is thus meticulously manicured and cared for.  In fact, perhaps that was the appeal of sharing ownership with California Chrome - neither TM Farm nor Chromie came from horse-racing royalty, but have nevertheless "finally arrived." :)

Upon entering the lobby, you will be greeted with a video of Taylor Made Farm's history, to include a list of some of their champions past and present and introducing you to the Taylor family.   They also made it very clear that every member of the family starts at an early age as a horse groom and works their way up, no free rides in this family.

This was the very first stable made, by Taylor Made, in 1976 - now converted as part of the office.

And then we were graced with the presence of our private tour guide, the fabulous Ms. Audrey :)

Taylor Made's Tour Guide, Audrey

Audrey is the friendly, vivacious PR/photography assistant for Taylor Made Farms, who also manages to find time to major in Equine Science student at UK and intern for Hagyard Equine Clinic (equal in status, care and international reputation to that of Rood &Riddle).

She has a genuine, easygoing manner and a ready laugh that will put you right at home in minutes :)

Our first stop was to the yearling stables, named after the very first client who ever took a chance on the newbies in town that were Taylor Made Farm, at that time.  Though we didn't meet her this trip, apparently, the people-loving, horse-loving and fun-loving,  Mrs. Anne Marie Jones will remind you a bit of that of Secretariat's owner, Penny Chenery.

Jones Yearling Stable

Most of the yearling babies were out in the pastures, but we were able to view their "white boards" and their famous pedigrees.

The "white board" is a dry-erase board outside of each stall which often gives full pedigree, but will always give sire, birth date, paddock location and any special dietary needs and treatment.

For example, here is a completed white board....

A proper read of the board goes like this:

The Dam (mother or mare) is "Cindy's Mom, 2015."

She is next booked to breed with "Candy Ride", available after 04/24/2015 (and yes, the mare is available for breeding again in 3 weeks!)

The Sire (Father, stallion) is "Distorted Humor" 

(Distorted Humor  is not only a fairly-well known and successful thoroughbred, but he has also sired a successful progeny, to include 2003 Kentucky Derby winner, Funny Cide)

Cindy's Mom foaled a baby colt by Distorted humor on 04/03/2015.

The paddock the colt is currently pastured in is F3.

(Yes, mares are bred again just about one month from having the last baby :/)

At this point, our eyes were drawn to this white board, which we will definitely keep our eyes and ears out for in 2 to 3 years - his name is "St. Midas."

Because his father is "Bodemeister", who like California Chrome, came in 2nd in 2 races of the "triple crown" in 2012, and like American Pharoah, he was also trained by Bob Baffert. (Bob's son is named "Bodie" and thus the horse's name.)


Our next stop was the breeding stall, which I'm just going to skip right over and pretend didn't happen, shall we? ;)

There wasn't much to show you anyway, and although very safe, aseptically, clinically and methodical, that was the problem - I couldn't help wanting to donate a Barry White CD, champagne and candles to the stables, perhaps to at least encourage a more spontaneous and romantic ambiance to the breeding stable! ;)

After trying to extract images of clinical horse breeding from my head for several minutes afterwards, we arrived at our next stop, the stallion stalls and paddocks, where California Chrome is currently recuperating  :)

In the opposite Paddock from California Chrome is Graydar, who is himself a champion and grand-sired by a super-champion, Unbridled  - in fact, his name has now been incorporated into out our state slogan and appears on our auto license plates - "Unbridled Spirit."

I fell in love with Graydar right away when he ran right up to us when he heard the rustle of a peppermint candy!  (I'm a sucker for dappled Irish grays, anyway.) 

Here's Mr. Graydar in his heyday...

He is one big boy! (He is about 3 generations back from a pure Irish Thoroughbred).

Graydie loves attention and showboats almost as much as Chromie, but he's a bit older than Chromie now.  As a result, he gets very jealous of Chromie's attention and will literally turn his back on Chromie and visitors when Chromie appears

It's  almost as if he's rolling his eyes and saying "Greeeeeat, here he comes again. He is sooooo OTT, let's just ignore him and maybe he'll go away." :)

But he is the sweetest thing, and unlike Chromie, he'll still for 2 seconds while you petted him.

After spending quality time with both Graydar and Chromie, sadly, it was time for us to go, but not before a pic with the lawn jockeys, representing the different owners who breed, foal and receive yearling care at the farm.

It appears California Chrome was already facing West when we left..."Go West, young man, and good luck.  We love you.":)

What was interesting was when I sang-song voiced him at the end, he settled right down, put his face between the slats of the fence and listened until he was calm, to the point that he could even stand still long enough for me to take the last photo of him  before we left - I have learned over time that all horses love a lullaby:)

On the way home, we stopped for a late brunch at The Cracker Barrel, on this unseasonably cold, early fall day, which welcomed us like an old friend, so I took this photo :)

They have a little country store as the reception area for the restaurant, I thought you might like, especially those of you with Southern roots:)

Despite the sudden chilly temperature, we had comfort care, comfort food and a comforting environment - everything anyone would ever need to have a Happy Fall - perhaps a Happy Fall will be had by all. (I know Mark will be happy for the next 10 years about today :)