GARDNERVILLE, Nev. (AP) - Steve Coburn was back home sipping a beer with the locals at Sharkey’s Casino where he placed a 200-1 bet in January on the unlikely possibility that his horse would win the Kentucky Derby even though few people had heard of it.
Now, with California Chrome a victory away from the Triple Crown, Coburn said he has stopped trying to explain the wild ride from rural northern Nevada to horse racing’s greatest stage.
“We’re here for a reason, and I’m not going to be questioning it,” Coburn told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I’m just going to savor every minute of it. He’s my gift from God. He really is.”
Coburn and his wife, Carolyn, who live in Topaz Lake near the California line, returned Wednesday to Sharkey’s on Old U.S. Highway 395 for a ceremonial cashing of that 200-1 ticket at a party organized by the sports book.
Coburn hasn’t disclosed the size of that Jan. 2 wager, and he actually cashed the real ticket earlier. But that didn’t matter to the dozens of fans who hung around while California Chrome’s co-owner signed autographs for about 90 minutes.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Carolyn Coburn said. “When I got here today and saw all these people and I saw the picture they made for us, it made me cry.”
With wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California Chrome is headed for the Belmont Stakes on June 7 in a bid to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Bred for $10,500, the early 4/5 favorite is the 13th horse to have a shot to break what has become the longest Triple Crown drought in the sport’s history - 36 years.
“This is such a Cinderella story,” Sharkey’s owner Harold Holder said.
Married for 20 years, the Coburns have been a bit bewildered by the newfound fame and fortune, friends say, although Steve Coburn has continued to work his day job at a company in Gardnerville that makes magnetic strips for credit cards and other items.
“They are the most small-town, modest, humble people - so down to earth,” longtime family friend Teri Vandenberg told the Lake Tahoe News. “They’ve been made celebrities overnight, and they’re overwhelmed.”
Carolyn Coburn said jockey Victor Espinoza has been one of the keys to California Chrome’s success.
“Victor knows that horse,” she said. “They understand each other.”
Steve Coburn said he’s confident his horse will end up in the winner’s circle at Elmont, N.Y., and win the Triple Crown.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said.
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