California Chrome, Dance With Fate, and Samraat all took to the track April 29 at Churchill Downs, the morning after arriving in Louisville, Ky. for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Heading out under exercise rider William Delgado, likely Derby favorite California Chrome jogged a circuit of the oval a little before 7:00 a.m. EDT, but was not wearing the yellow Derby saddle towel emblazoned with his name that is provided for all contenders. A new towel was on the way after the first one showed up with the "California" misspelled, so the flashy chestnut runner wore trainer Art Sherman's stable green saddle towel along with four green leg wraps fastened with contrasting white tape.
Following California Chrome's visit to the track, Sherman held court for the press corps outside Barn 20. The former jockey climbed up on a mounting block to address the horde, and shared a formerly undisclosed piece of information regarding the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner's value.
"We turned down $6 million for him after the Santa Anita Derby, and that's a pretty good offer," Sherman said of a serious proposal from an undisclosed potential buyer. "They said they'd let me have the horse through the Derby, but then I'd lose the horse, and that's kind of like losing a friend. We've been together since he was a baby, so I'd lose a good friend and I'd lose a hell of a horse."
Sherman added he was glad breeders Perry Martin and Steven Coburn decided not to sell. The former exercise rider for 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps, he said the racing game has changed since he started in it all those years ago, and he's glad he has a horse who continues to inspire a growing fan base in this day and age.
"We need heroes right now, and I'm hoping he's one of them," Sherman said.
Taking to the track a little while after California Chrome were Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Dance With Fate and TwinSpire.com Wood Memorial (gr. I) runner-up Samraat, who went out at the 8:30 a.m. training time designated for contenders in the Kentucky Derby and Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Dance With Fate arrived on the same plane as California Chrome, and handled the ship back from California well according to trainer Peter Eurton.
"He just jogged one time around today; he probably wanted to do more but he got in late yesterday and he didn't need to do more," Eurton said. "He was pretty calm out there considering all the people. He's handled all the shipping well."
Racing for Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable, and Ciaglia Racing, Dance With Fate has turned in his best performances over synthetic surfaces or turf, and has not won a race on the dirt. He will gallop April 30, and is expected to school in the paddock school May 1 and May 2.
Trainer Rick Violette was on the backside to supervise New York-bred Samraat in his first visit to the track.
"It was a great ship," Violette reported of Samraat's flight to Kentucky from New York. "It was five hours from his stall at Aqueduct to his stall here; it was like he was beamed down here, it was that good. He was bucking and squealing coming off the van here. He maybe even enjoys traveling, because he's done it so much."
Samraat won five in a row for breeder Len Riggio's My Meadowview Farm, including the Withers (gr. III) and Gotham Stakes (gr. III), before finishing second to fellow Derby contender Wicked Strong in the April 5 Wood Memorial. Samraat breezed April 25 at Aqueduct Racetrack before shipping to Kentucky.
"The hard work's done. We have our breeze in," Violette said. "He could jog a couple of days and it wouldn't bother him. We'll jog today and see how the track is tomorrow and gallop or jog him. I don't have to anything more than maybe stand him out in the gate and school him in the paddock and that'll be enough."