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The Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of Thoroughbred horse racing's cherished Triple Crown, will be run tomorrow — and all eyes are on California Chrome. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the colt stands the chance of becoming only the 12th horse in history to win the Triple Crown — and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
In honor of the big race, we rounded up 10 fun facts we bet you didn't know about California Chrome.
1. His name comes from a combination of his markings and his birthplace. The term "chrome" is horse-industry slang for white markings, and the chestnut horse has plenty of them — four white-stockinged feet and a white blaze. And, of course, the first word of what's now a household name comes from the place he was foaled: Coalinga, California.
2. Co-owner Steve Coburn had a dream that California Chrome would be a chestnut colt with a white blaze. Take it or leave it, but Coburn tells the story of the prophecy he dreamed three weeks before the colt was born. "I believe it's going to be a big chestnut colt with a white blaze," he said he told his wife when he later related the story to The New York Times. When he saw the foal for the first time, he knew the horse was "going to do something big."
3. California Chrome's nickname is Junior. When co-owner Perry Martin and his wife, Denise, saw the newborn — already at a whopping 137 pounds — for the first time in February 2011, they bestowed upon him the nickname Junior. He went by Junior until he was officially named two years later.
4. The colt's name was chosen by a waitress. Co-owners Coburn and Martin and their wives met for lunch in 2013 at Brewsters Bar & Grill in Galt, California. Each of the four wrote their favorite name for the horse on a Post-it note, and waitress Alison Simonich drew the names, one by one, from Coburn's cowboy hat. The first one she drew was Steve Coburn's submission: California Chrome.
5. The horse's fans call themselves "Chromies." His devoted admirers cover themselves in tin foil (to simulate chrome) and sing his praises with hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.
6. A spelling mistake has now become superstition. Upon arriving at Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby, Chrome's team received two saddlecloths with his name on them — one spelled properly and one misspelled "Califorina Chrome." Trainer Art Sherman believed it to be good luck, so the team requested the same thing for the Preakness and the Belmont. After the Belmont, Sherman plans to autograph and auction off Chrome's third misspelled saddlecloth and donate the proceeds to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
7. Co-owners Coburn and Martin just signed a sponsorship deal with Skechers. No, California Chrome won't be wearing Skechers during the race. But the footwear company's branding will appear on handlers' outfits, on the horse's blanket and more leading up to the Belmont — and the deal lets Skechers use the colt's image in marketing for a month after the race.
8. The colt's four white feet aren't a desirable feature. Many in the horse racing industry believe that white hooves on a horse are softer than dark ones. "His feet are pretty good, but sometimes it's a challenge to work with white-footed horses," equine foot care specialist Judd Fisher told NJ.com.
9. The colors of California Chrome's silks were chosen by his co-owners' wives. Carolyn Coburn and Denise Martin each contributed their favorite color: purple and green, respectively.
10. California Chrome inspired a country song called "Bring It on Home, Chrome." Nashville-based singer Templeton Thompson wrote the song with husband Sam Gay, and you can listen to it on YouTube.
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