My Lost Connection To California Chrome

Jim Luff
Posted on June 10, 2014

California Chrome was the talk of last week. There was so much hype about that horse only to let everyone down at the finish line. Steve Coburn, the co-owner of California Chrome, is a hometown Bakersfield boy. His family roots are deep within our community to this date. Chrome was born and raised nearby in the San Joaquin Valley.

Speaking of Coburn's family, we heard plenty from his family. About a week before the Belmont Stakes, we received an email asking if we could donate roundtrip limousine service from Bakersfield to LAX. It's about a 250-mile trip, so they were only asking for 500 miles of free service (said tongue in cheek of course). They promised in exchange to draw media attention to our name and help promote our business to the media. Really? We are the official limousine service of every TV network in town. We are the official limousine service of every radio station group in town. So, come again?  What were they going to do for us? Nothing!  I responded back with an email explaining our philanthropic goals within the community. I politely explained our donations are made to 501c-3 non-profit organizations that benefit the community as a whole and we spend about $80,000 a year in donations to community events.

I was stunned when I received a cell phone call on Thursday, two days before the big race, from a man named "Larry" who was desperately trying to “help the family get to LAX to attend the race of the family horse.” At that moment, I blew my lid. I ate Larry for breakfast. I explained to him that California Chrome had made so much money from his wins that the $700 fare we charge for round trip service to LAX should be chump change for the family. I was insulted by the request for a handout that would benefit no one but these greedy people. They needed to go ask Enterprise Rent-A-Car for a donation rather than ride in a limousine.

After posting about this insulting request on my personal Facebook page, I received a call from Coburn's sister-in-law who was in New York and apologized profusely for the request. She said, “The family has paid for everyone we wanted to be at the race to be at the race.” She went on to explain that every distant family member, step-family member, third through ninth cousins etc. had come out of the woodwork to be a part of the “family” and they were embarrassed to have a step-family member pull that stunt. Not only did Larry call me, he also called the marketing department of a local hospital, local radio station promotion directors and the news media asking for help to get the family to New York. Pathetic.

Then came the fourth place finish and the subsequent public spouting from Steve Coburn about the unfair rules of the race. On second thought, I have no ties to that horse or those people. That was just a misleading headline.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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