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Locally-owned Rock Your World one of the favorites to win Kentucky Derby

A one-time dream of someday owning a racehorse has blossomed into a successful enterprise for Kern County natives Kosta and Pete Hronis.

The brothers, who have owned and operated Hronis Racing, LLC since 2010, will be center stage Saturday afternoon when their dark brown colt Rock Your World enters the starting gate at Churchill Downs for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.

“The Derby and Triple Crown are the America races,” said Kosta Hronis, who now manages a stable of horses with his wife, Stephanie. “On TV … everyone knows about (the races). To be part of the Derby tradition is an honor to the family and all the hard work it takes to put something like this together. Of 25,000 3-year-old horses, only 20 make it to the Derby.”

And although even reaching this level of competition might be enough of an accomplishment, this horse is no long shot. Rock Your World enters the 1 ¼-mile race with 5-to-1 odds, second only to favorite Essential Quality at 2-to-1.

The two horses will line up side-by-side with Essential Quality in stall No. 14 and Rock Your World in No. 15 in the 20-horse field. The race is scheduled to start at 3:40 p.m. Saturday, with talented jockey Joel Rosario at the controls for Hronis.

Winning the Kentucky Derby would be nothing new to the 36-year-old rider, who has won more than 3,000 races in his career. He rode Orb, at 11-to-2 odds, to victory in the 2013 race. Last year’s race, won by Authentic, was moved to September following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are proud to be Kern County residents and we are proud to represent this part of California,” said Kosta Hronis, whose family has made a living with its Hronis Inc. farming company since 1948, specializing in table grapes and citrus. “Very proud.”

So expectations for Rock Your World are high. They began to build after he opened his racing career with three victories at Santa Anita. He opened with a victory in a Maiden Special Weights race on New Year’s Day, followed it up with a win in the Pasadena Stakes Feb. 27 and then continued his momentum at the 1 ⅓-mile Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

Rock Your World was bred in Kentucky by Hall-of-Fame trainer Ron McAnally and his wife, Deborah, and is trained by veteran John Sadler, who has won 2,599 races since his first win in 1979, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2018 with another Hronis horse, Accelerate. He also trained Hronis’ filly Stellar Wind, the 2015 Eclipse Award winner.

McAnally received notice in the 1980s as the trainer of John Henry, the two-time United States horse of the year, but he has never trained a winner of a Triple Crown race. His horses finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby twice.

It is the second time a horse with local ties has competed in the Kentucky Derby in the past seven years.

California Chrome, the horse of the year in 2014 after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, was owned — co-owned with a 30 percent stake — by Foothill High graduate and former Bakersfield resident Steve Coburn.