By now the world knows all about California Chrome. After demolishing the field at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the 3-year-old thoroughbred gallops on the cusp of a Triple Crown title, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in over 30 years. One more win, a week from Saturday at the Belmont Stakes, is all it will take for California Chrome to stamp his hoof print in the horse racing history books.
Knowing about California Chrome now is to be expected. But 28-year-old Jacob Pollowitz, a media relations director at Emerald Downs and a public handicapper, was onto the horse before it was cool. In other words, if horse racing had hipsters, Pollowitz would have a shit-ton of street cred right now.
But Pollowitz doesn’t need street cred. He’s got the financial winnings to back up his game.
Back in February, after watching California Chrome hint at his potential as a 2-year-old in SoCal racing, Pollowitz placed what’s known as a futures bet on the then-unknown colt - locking in odds at better than 30-1. The Shoreline-native put down $500 on the horse, figuring it was worth the risk, and “$500 wasn’t going to kill me one way or another.”
At the time, the bet raised eyebrows amongst his friends and colleagues. But when California Chrome crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs May 3, a 1 3/4-length victory secured, Pollowitz was the one left laughing.
Pollowitz’s take home: A cool $16,900.
Not a bad return on $500.
“I kind of had a pretty good idea of what California Chrome’s ability was,” Pollowitz says, while admitting that the future bet was mostly a shot in the dark. “I had followed him as he started racing, and just took interest in him, as a gambler would.”
As he watched the Derby, Pollowitz remembers thinking, “Holy freakin’ crap, this really just happened.”
The money has been nice, of course, but as Pollowitz details his big win by phone, it becomes clear that the payoff has been more than monetary for this son of a handicapper.
“The future bet is definitely the most rewarding, obviously financially,” he says. “But just to say you could pick out a horse way ahead of time, seeing something the other guys didn’t see. I took a lot of pride in doing that.
“Now it’s taken a step further,” he adds. “Not only did I find the Kentucky Derby winner, months ahead of time, but I found the Preakness winner.”
And maybe a Triple Crown winner?
“The real question is the things that aren’t in your control,” Pollowitz says of California Chrome’s prospects, wondering about variables like how the colt will react to the surface at Belmont or what toll the three-race Triple Crown will take.
Still, he likes this horse.
“I think he can,” Pollowitz says of California Chrome’s chance at history. “If all the things that are out of his control continue to go his way, he will win the Triple Crown.”
You can take that to the bank.
Just not the same way Pollowitz has.