California Chrome’s victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes have been great fun for Larry and Marianne Williams.
The wins also have been very, very good for their horse business.
As a result, few will be cheering harder for California Chrome to complete his historic run for horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 36 years at the Belmont Stakes on June 7 than an unassuming couple from the Treasure Valley.
“I don’t know that I would survive,” Larry Williams said.
Williams has attended both Triple Crown races with his wife and others from Treetop Ranches, the couple’s horse business headquartered in Parma.
The Williamses own California Chrome’s sire, Lucky Pulpit. Thanks to Chrome’s success, Lucky Pulpit’s stud fee has quadrupled from $2,500 to $10,000 in recent weeks. That number could grow even larger if California Chrome can win the elusive final piece of the Triple Crown.
California Chrome is the 13th horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown since Affirmed won all three races in 1978. None of the previous 12 finished it off.
“He’s a really special horse,” Williams said. “He is a very, very special horse, not only in his running ability but he has a fantastic disposition and mind.”
The Williamses bought Lucky Soph, a pregnant mare in 2000. She gave birth to Lucky Pulpit, whose sire, Pulpit, was sired by former Kentucky Derby winner A.P. Indy, whose bloodlines include Triple Crown winners Secretariat and Seattle Slew.
Lucky Pulpit, who like many of the Williamses’ horses was brought to Parma and broken in as a youngster, was a Kentucky Derby contender himself after a strong 2-year-old campaign. But Lucky Pulpit developed a breathing problem and, after a lackluster finish in the Santa Anita Derby, fell off that track. In 22 races, Lucky Pulpit won three races and finished in the money 13 times, earning $209,928.
After an ankle injury ended his racing career, Lucky Pulpit was retired to stud in 2007 at Harris Farms in California.
He’s been even better in his second career, honored as top freshman sire in California in 2008, the year his first crop arrived.
Lucky Pulpit has sired 99 horses of racing age — 55 have started races, and 46 have won a race. In their first 702 career starts, his offspring have won 121 races and more than $3.1 million — and that was before California Chrome won the Derby and Preakness.
In addition to California Chrome, the most decorated, Lucky Pulpit sired the Williams-owned Rousing Sermon, who finished eighth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, and Luckarack, who has won 12 races and more than $500,000 in his career.
“We feel very fortunate, very blessed to have a Rousing Sermon and a California Chrome,” Larry Williams said. “It’s beginning to look like he’s got some real talent.”
The Williamses charged a paltry $2,500 stud fee for Lucky Pulpit to encourage more breeding. It has worked. He had a full book of mares this season, even when the price went up.
Thanks to California Chrome’s success, Lucky Pulpit could end up as the top stallion in California.
Williams will settle on a stud fee for next year in September or October.
It no longer will be a bargain.