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Owners want California Chrome to keep racing

By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The owners of Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome have taken out an insurance policy on their horse in the hope that he can keep racing regardless of whether or not he wins Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

The superstar colt would be worth millions of dollars as a stallion if he becomes the first horse in 36 years to complete the elusive Triple Crown but his connections want him to stay in the sport.

California Chrome's 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman told Reuters he expects the horse will be given a long rest after the Belmont Stakes and brought back in time to run in this year's $5 million Breeders' Cup, America's richest race, at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1.

Sherman also said it was possible that the wonder horse - who has already won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes - could return to the track next season and chase more big races.

"I want to keep him around for the Breeders' Cup later on this year and I'd like to see him race as four-year-old," Sherman told Reuters on Tuesday.

"I think he'd been an outstanding four-year-old.

"That's up to the owners but they just insured him for a lot of money and I don't think they'd have spent that money if they didn't plan on running."

California Chrome's co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin have already turned down a $6 million offer to sell the three-year-old, which they bred for just $10,500.

WORTH MILLIONS

He would be worth much more with a win Saturday in Elmont, New York, but Coburn said retirement was not on the agenda and they wanted to get him back to the track once he had a break.

"We'll take him back home and give him some time off," Coburn told Reuters. "We haven't decided yet what we're going to do with him, but he's gonna need some down time.

"Then we'll let him tell us when he's ready to go again. He's got our cell number so all he's got to do is call."

Sherman did not say how much the horse had been insured for and Coburn said he had no idea what California Chrome would be worth as a stallion if he completed the Triple Crown.

American studmasters have estimated he was currently worth between $10 million and $15 million and his value could double if he won the Triple Crown.

Whatever happens, Coburn and Martin are already assured of a huge return with their flashy chestnut colt having earned $3.2 million in prizemoney.

He will take his earnings past $4 million if he wins the Belmont and the owners have already signed the first of what could be many endorsement deals.

UNLIKELY OWNERS

But for Coburn and Martin - two unlikely owners who met by accident - money is not their driving force.

The pair only met after joining a larger syndicate that raced a mare called Love the Chase, which won just one race, a low-grade maiden claimer.

When the partnership was dissolved, Coburn and Martin bought the mare for $8,000 and called their two-man syndicate Dumb-Ass Partners, after they overhead a stable groom mocking them for planning to breed from her.

Unfazed, Perry dug into the breeding charts and picked an equally modest stallion, called Lucky Pulpit, which cost $2,500 to breed with. They struck the jackpot with their first foal.

"We're just everyday guys. We work every day. We believed in our horse and we still do to this day," said Coburn, who works at a Nevada factory that makes magnetic strips for credit cards.

"We're just glad we can story with people we just hope it gives other people the incentive to go out there and try hard.

"You can make your dreams come true if you're willing to put hard work into it and that's exactly what we did."

Coburn was introduced to racing by his wife Carolyn and has become the public face of the syndicate, outspoken and confident and unmistakable in his cowboy boots and hat.

Martin, who runs a commercial testing laboratory in California with his wife Denise, has kept a much lower profile.

He skipped the Preakness because he was unhappy at the way he had been treated in Kentucky but has made the trip to the Big Apple for Saturday's race.

"Perry and his family are pretty well reserved, that's why he gets the hell out of town real quick so I can do all the talking," Coburn told a media luncheon in Manhattan.

"Perry and his wife are both very intelligent people. What he does is very important but we're just average guys. We've both got jobs and we are who we are.

"He's the thinker, I'm the talker."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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