LOUISVILLE — Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, who named their stable Dumb-Ass Partners after a comment someone made about the dubious wisdom of buying their horse's mother, on Saturday looked like the smartest horse owners at Churchill Downs.
Despite knowing little about horses, the working-class pair, who live on the California-Nevada line, bought Love The Chase for a mere $8,000 five years ago.
They bred her to Lucky Pulpit, a $2,500 stallion who stands in Coalinga, California, and got a colt who grew up to become California Chrome.
Now, they hope to become horse racing's Cinderella story, aiming to win not just the Kentucky Derby but the Triple Crown, something no horse has won in 36 years.
Coburn and Martin were so confident in the horse's chances that they turned down a $6 million offer for a 51 percent share in the horse before the Derby.
They invested their retirement savings into him, Coburn said.
Coburn, a cowboy-hat-wearing Army vet who turned 61 on Saturday, works at a small company in Nevada that makes magnetic strips for credit cards, driver's licenses, and such. On Wednesday, he will get up at 4:30 a.m. and go back to work.
And in two weeks, he and Martin will fly coach to Maryland for the Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
California Chrome will fly first class, he said.
"Guardian angels have been watching over us and they put this horse on the right path. So, yeah, we'll see you all in Maryland," Coburn said in the winner's circle right after the race. "And then we'll see you all in New York. Yes. We're going. Why not? WHY NOT?"
Coburn said they always believed in the bloodlines of the horse, which stretch straight back into the heart of Kentucky to Claiborne Farm in Paris, where both the late Pulpit (on the father's side) and the late Mr. Prospector (on the mother's side through her sire, Not For Love) stood at stud.
Coburn said that he knew before the colt was born that he would be special.
"About three weeks prior to the colt's birth, I had a dream. I told my wife, Carolyn, 'I believe it's going to be a big chestnut colt, with four white stocking feet and a big blaze face,'" Coburn said. "We drove over and we saw him the day after he was born, ... and she looked in the stall and said, 'There's your dream.' And that dream became the dream we have today."
Coburn said the horse has already proven many people wrong, people who thought a California-bred horse couldn't beat the best of Kentucky.
"They never gave this horse any credence. 'He's a California-bred, they don't do this, they don't do that,'" Coburn said. "Well guess what, he don't know he's a California-bred, and I don't care if he knows it or not. But he is who he is. And he's a great horse. ... To see this horse win the Kentucky Derby, I have no words. Except that we've got another California bred that won the Kentucky Derby."