Call to Post
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California Chrome: What's Love Got To Do With It
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Chesapeake City's roots reach back 200 years when construction began on an inland waterway linking the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. Down a country lane just a few miles from the quaint waterside town , you will find a clutch of horse farms occupying more than 4,000 acres of preserved green space in northeast Maryland.
Just beyond the sprawling tree nursery, black wooden fences stretch as far as the eye can see. On a sun drenched early May morning, a 24 year old-timer grazes contently in his lush paddock. It's land where Northern Dancer, one of the world's most influential sires, held court in the 1970s and '80s.
For those in the thoroughbred breeding business Not For Love has been a rock star at Northview Stallion Station for more than a decade. Recognized as the most successful stallion breeding in America outside of Kentucky over that time span, Not for Love's offspring tend to be physically correct and durable, talented racehorses. At an age when most stallions begin winding down their career, Not For Love's progeny enjoyed solid returns at Kentucky auctions in 2013 and at the track one of his best runners Eighttofasttocatch (age 7) won four stakes, including his second Maryland Million Classic.
Not For Love's lofty status soared even higher when his grandson California Chrome roared home as the winner of the 140th Kentucky Derby.
A striking colt with a burnished copper coat offset by four white feet and a blazed face, California Chrome is the first foal out of the mare Love the Chase, a daughter of Not For Love. Owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin paid $8,000 for Love the Chase, a $30,000 Fasig-Tipton MidAtlantic juvenile, who had one win in six starts at Golden Gate Fields and was retired by her owners.
The Derby champ was foaled and raised at Harris Farms in California's San Joaquin Valley, also the home of his sire, Lucky Pulpit, a son of 1997 Derby fourth place finisher Pulpit. The late Claiborne stallion had a reputation as one of A. P. Indy's most successful sons at stud when he died unexpectedly at age 18 in 2012.
Broodmare sire Not for Love brings one of America’s most coveted bloodlines to the California Chrome equation. A superbly bred son of Mr. Prospector, like his dad Not For Love is passing on good genes. Standing 15-hands tall, he is still a solid, powerful horse. For the past dozen years Not for Love has ranked at or near the top of Maryland’s sire list.
He is a full brother to champion two-year old Rhythm and Grade-3 winner Get Lucky, who is the dam of four stakes winners, and granddam to Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Bluegrass Cat.
Not For Love is out of Grade-1 Dance Number, a daughter of the Kentucky Derby-Preakness champion Northern Dancer who was known as the "sire of top sires." Dance Number was the mother of a champion, and a Grade-1 stakes winner herself. The Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer bloodlines merged in 2005 when Polish Number's daughter, Chase It Down, was bred to Not for Love. The foal was named Love the Chase, California Chrome's dam.
Trained by Shug McGaughey and owned by the Phipps family, Not For Love never lived up to his great expectations at the racetrack. He ran credibly in the New York allowance ranks without ever winning a stakes race, starting 29 times over four seasons in the mid-1990s, resulting in six wins, seven seconds and five thirds with career earnings of $178,870.
After three seasons of competition, the Phipps family sold Not For Love to business executive Richard Golden who, along with Dr. Tom Bowman and the late Mrs. Allaire du Pont, launched Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City in 1988. Not For Love's sterling bloodlines, plus his imposing physical presence, convinced Golden as to his potential as a sire.
When Not For Love turned up for his breeding career at Northview in 1996 with a modest stud fee of $3,500, Mid-Atlantic breeders were all in from the outset. Operating below the elite level of the racing business they figured the best chance of acquiring a top stallion is to bet on a horse with a superior pedigree whose racing record wasn't good enough to send him to the big Kentucky farms.
The state’s all-time leading sire, Not For Love led all Maryland stallions in 2013 who had at least one Maryland-sired crop of racing age. Not For Love has 15 such crops, and in 2013 his runners earned $2,922,319. He was also the leader by number of winners (60) and wins (105), and topped the corresponding juvenile sire's lists.
Seven Not For Love offspring won or placed in stakes in 2013, led by Eighttofasttocatch. The chestnut gelding had his best season yet at age 7, capturing his second Maryland Million Classic, which he first won in 2011. It was the third year in a row that a son of Not For Love was a Classic winner, with Not Abroad rolling home the winner in 2012.
Eighttofasttocatch also finished second in the Grade-3 Pimlico Special. Eighttofasttocatch is typical of Not For Love’s best runners through the years in that he is clearly at his best on dirt and is the embodiment of a sound racehorse. He's had 45 starts over six seasons and racing from seven to 10 times in each of his past five years. His lifetime earnings total to $914,585, Not For Love’s richest runner.
Maryland’s lifetime leading sire on both the general and juvenile sires lists, Not For Love had total progeny earnings of nearly $65 million through 2013. His annual book and fee $15,000) have both been reduced in recent years for safety's sake due to his age. At his peak Not For Love stood for $25, 000.
California Chrome's tale is the kind of which horsemen and racing fans dream. Maryland's Not For Love helped make it happen.
A longtime standout is Eighttofasttocatch, one of many Not For Love progeny to shine during the annual Maryland Million racecard, as he captured his second edition of the Maryland Million Classic at age 7 last October. Eighttofasttocatch is is typical of Not For Love’s best runners through the years in that he is clearly at his best on dirt and is the embodiment of a sound racehorse, having made 45 starts over six seasons and racing from seven to 10 times in each of his past five campaigns.
Since the early 2000s Not For Love has sat at the top of Maryland’s general sire list, a position he held for nine years (2003-11) before finishing second to fellow Northview stallion Orientate in 2012.
Last year he ranked second to Orientate again, but with one caveat. Orientate’s numbers were also acquired from his time spent in Kentucky before transferring to Maryland. Not For Love’s annual book and fee have both been reduced in recent years due to his age. He stands the 2014 season at a fee of $15,000 after reaching $25,000 at its peak.
California Chrome's tale is the kind that dreams are made of. Not For Love is a horse that can make it happen.
Photos of Not For Love courtesy of Northview Stallion Station
Photo of California Chrome by Eclipse SportsPhotos
Writer & Historian
Terry Conway has been a regular contributor to The Blood-Horse magazine since 2003. He started writing historical racing articles for ESPN.com in 2010 and the Jockey Club’s America’s Best Racing in 2012. His work has been featured on premier racing sites including the Paulick Report and Equidaily.com. He is also a member of the Turf Writers of America.
One of the most familiar sounds at a racetrack is the bugle call, universally known as the call to the post. The catchy melody is performed as the jockeys parade their horses to the track. It also alerts spectators that another race is forthcoming. Prior to the advent of the starting gates, the call to the post would signal horses to circle around and line up at a starting line and were off and running at the signal of the starter's flag.
The origin of the call to the post goes back to military traditions. Buglers and their horns were a key part of the art of warfare sending signals over a chaotic battlefield and on board warships. "First call" reveries signal the start of a new day, while Taps is the haunting strain sounded nightly by the U.S. military to indicate "lights out." Sometimes known as "Butterfield's Lullaby," it is also played during flag ceremonies and funerals, generally on a bugle or trumpet.
Kelso is the only Five Time “Horse of the Year honoree. That feat will never be duplicated. Kelso dominated American racing like no other horse before or since setting a string of records and endearing himself to millions of fans. He was a homebred of Mrs. Allaire du Pont and raced in her canary yellow and gray silks. No horse raced so well and did it so long as Kelso. He is buried in a lovely equine cemetery at Mrs. du Pont’s Woodstock Farm in Chesapeake City, Md. A quote at the base of Kelso’s granite marker simply says: “Where he gallops the earth sings.” For my money, longevity-wise, there has never been a greater American thoroughbred.