California Chrome camp keen to light up Royal Ascot
For a Nevadan visiting England for the first time, it must be reassuring to find something which reminds you of home.
While the Anglo-Scandinavian William Buick has been booked to ride California Chrome in next Wednesday's Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot because of his familiarity with top-class horses, the coincidence of his name was not lost on the chestnut's part-owner, Steve Coburn.
"Well, Buick is an American-made car, and California Chrome is an American made-horse, so hopefully things will work out," he said.
Coburn, with his walrus moustache and ever-present Stetson, has been given a chocolate-box introduction to this country. Yesterday, he saw Buick and California Chrome striding out across a sun-drenched Newmarket Heath and then sat among the paintings of Stubbs and Munnings in the Jockey Club Rooms.
To continue an image of the bygone era, he will be dressing for the occasion at Royal Ascot. "My wife says it's just for one day, so get over it and go with the programme," Coburn said. "I've got fitted for my top hat and tails and I haven't worn shoes since I left the army in 1979. I've been in boots all my life."
The California Chrome story of an unfashionable home-bred colt, trained by the 78-year-old former track rider Art Sherman, and their pursuit of the Triple Crown captured hearts last year. Despite his ultimate failure (he won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but was fourth in the Belmont), and the success this year of American Pharoah, the horse still has a vast fan club, known as 'Chromies'.
"It is a fairy tale come true, it's been life-changing, but our lives haven't changed, we're still the same people," said Coburn, who added "I understand the Queen's a Chromie".
But up against the likes of Free Eagle and The Grey Gatsby, Sherman is not overly bullish about California Chrome's chance of winning.