A Visit to California Chrome’s New Kentucky Home

“The jumble of his DNA”

©America's Best Racing

Taylor Made Farm is bursting at the seams with over 500 horses, mares, foals and yearlings, on its 1100 acre breeding farm near Nicholasville, Kentucky. The colts and fillies born there are meticulously maintained and developed until the day they enter the sales ring at prestigious auctions like Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton. American Pharoah was raised at Taylor Made. It is ironic that almost no one there can remember which stall was his, of course as a yearling he was not famous, yet.

The Taylor Made stallion complex sits atop a low rise, just beyond the cemetery where the head, heart and hooves of Unbridled’s Song lie buried. It was the great gray stallion’s success on the track and as a sire that proved a keystone to today’s successes. Among his progeny are: Will Take Charge, Graydar, Liam’s Map, the tragic Eight Belles and a seemingly invincible Arrogate.

“Unbridled’s Song was one of those great horses. He had it all—looks, pedigree, speed and presence,” Taylor Made President and CEO Duncan Taylor said of the horse.

Stallion barn. Photo by Loren Schumacher

The buildings, four in all, each trimmed in red and white, stand open to the crisp air and late winter sunshine. Unlike its counterparts, which house stallions in stalls along the wide avenues of huge stables, each building at Taylor Made houses just two stallions. Seven stallions are standing at Taylor Made in 2017, among them is Al Shaqab Racing’s Mshawish, a son of Medaglia d’Oro. He stands quietly under a tree in deep shade.

Mshawish. Photo courtesy of Taylor Made

Exercise and fresh air make healthy animals and the stallions are turned out for up to twenty-three hours a day in nearly every kind of weather. Mshawish is a star—a winner of seven stakes races in three countries, and a G1 winner on both dirt and turf. He was retired in 2016 after a minor soft tissue injury prevented him from further training in preparation for the Breeder’s Cup Classic.

Astrology, the 9-year-old son of A.P. Indy, stands wet, slick and motionless as his groom gives him his daily bath. He takes no notice of the commotion made by the tour, turning his head just slightly before fixing his gaze on the wall in front of him.

Astrology. Photo by Loren Schumacher

And Graydar, the biggest of the Taylor Made stallions at 16.3 hands, cranes his neck, forcing his nose and supple lips through a tiny opening between the bars of his stall, hoping to convince his admirers that he really should have just one more treat. The son of Unbridled’s Song won five of his six career races. According to trainer Todd Pletcher, a slow healing quarter crack brought the colt’s racing career to an untimely end.

Graydar. Photo courtesy of Taylor Made

But it is the new kid across the hall from Graydar who garners most of the treats and nearly all of the attention. His name and achievements are legendary. He is California Chrome.

He seems restive and perhaps bored by his confinement. When he abruptly turns to his open window, his fans (many in Chrome garb) follow him, taking hundreds of pictures as he poses. In the late day’s light he is nearly golden in color. There is laughter and excitement all around him but California Chrome has heard it all before and remains stoic and unmoved, though he is a notorious ham when cameras are nearby.

California Chrome. Photo by Loren Schumacher

Despite his reputation as a bit of a “Rock Star,” he’s quiet except for the continuous tossing of his head. Standing with his groom Jose in ankle deep straw, he appears smaller than his listed 16.1 hands. But standing next to him you quickly realize that this is a very big, muscular horse. He is hard and smooth like sculpted stone. Except for a small spot near his right eye where the hair is worn away, Chrome’s chestnut coat is perfect, silky and radiant.

Chrome has a date at 6:00—one of three that day—and one that has very little to do with romance. Surprisingly our guide Laura said that he is not yet “studish” in the breeding shed. But in the meantime he takes treats from every hand that offers one. His lips whisk the treats from your hand with relish, but not greed. We’re told that he has gained 150 pounds in his first month at Taylor Made.

California Chrome is just 6-years-old but his face speaks of a far greater maturity. There is a worldly, almost world-weary look about him. His eyes are steady and calm with a hint of the fire that drove him to greatness. Wherever there has been a significant race, Chrome and his connections were there. They could always rely on his high cruising speed, relentless coiling and uncoiling of perfectly harmonized muscles, and his maximum effort, even in defeat.

Many have said that California Chrome outperformed his pedigree; but in the genetic jumble of his DNA, there is hope. Strings of chromosomes hold his outstanding athletic ability and physical beauty, and he stands for a modest $40,000.00. But one wonders if the price includes his grit and, most of all, his heart. Many have bet on the outcome. Like all of them, we will have to wait and see.

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About the Author

Loren Schumacher is a small business/horse owner in Southwestern Ohio. He competes in competitive trail events and publishes the blog Nip & Duck, where he talks about almost anything horse.

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