The horse and his oddball connections have become instant
celebrities, with their every move broadcast on American television,
newspapers and the internet.
Towns in California are being decorated in the horse's purple and
green silks and school kids are making videos and rap songs about
His rags to riches story has captivated the country, giving fresh
hope to the idea that anyone can strike it rich with hard work and a
bit of luck.
More than 120,000 people are expected to cram into Belmont Park on
Saturday to witness the colt's bid to become the first Triple Crown
winner in 36 years while millions more will watch on television.
"Horses like this don't come out that often. He's truly a gifted
horse - very athletic and it will be a big boost for the industry,"
said Martin Panza, the senior vice president of racing operations at
the New York Racing Association (NYRA).
"When you can get 120,000 people out to Belmont Park, we're exposing
a lot of people to the sport and the majesty of these horses
running. So it's a positive thing."
No-one will be willing California Chrome on to victory more than the
racing community, hoping a Triple Crown success will help revive the
sport. Even the connections of rival horses have said they would
love to see him win.
Like boxing, horse racing's golden era seems a distant past, more
suited to the age of black and white television than today's world
of cell phones and social media.
Once a hugely popular sport, all the key indicators point to an
industry in decline and the buzz about Saturday's race is a rarity
for the sport rather than a reflection of its popularity.
Apart from a few iconic events such as the Triple Crown races and
the Breeders' Cup, attendances at race tracks across the country are
Betting figures, television viewership, even the number of foals
being born each year are all in decline, while other sports,
particularly pro football and basketball, go from strength to
If the odds of California Chrome, who was bred by two workers for
just $10,500, completing the Triple Crown are long, the odds of him
single-handedly reviving the industry would be astronomical, though
everyone agrees a victory on Saturday would at least give the sport
[to top of second column]
NYRA president Chris Kay said he hoped the unlikely take of
California Chrome might convince other people to get involved in the
sport as owners.
"The hearts and minds of race fans around the world have been
captivated by California Chrome," he said.
"What they have shown is that in this great sport of ours, dreams
really do come true.
"I won't ever be able to afford a $2 billion NBA basketball team but
I certainly can afford to be an owner or even a part owner of a
Steve Coburn, one of California Chrome's two co-owners, said he fell
in love with horse racing when his wife first took him to see a race
He said he hoped a Triple Crown winner would raise the profile of
the sport and convince more people to get along to the races.
"I hope it brings more people to the racetrack because horse racing
needs an uplift in the United States, it really does," Coburn told
"It's easier for people to sit in their air conditioned houses and
watch TV and make bets than it is to go to the track.
"But the sound and the sight and the smell of horses is just
something that people really need to experience."
(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Gene Cherry)
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