Additional reporting by Claire Novak
Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome looked sharp in his final workout May 31 in preparation for the upcoming Belmont Stakes (gr. I), breezing a half-mile under regular rider Victor Espinoza in a quick :47.69 at Belmont Park.
"It was great," Espinoza said. "I started not too fast...and I picked it up a little bit at the end. When we crossed the wire, I kind of dropped the reins a little bit and he did what he always does: his job."
Steve Coburn and Perry Martin's homebred son of Lucky Pulpit is seeking to become the 12th horse in history to sweep the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Belmont and the first Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. He impressed on-lookers with his presence over a track playing fast after being sealed overnight because of light rain in the New York area.
"The horse worked great," assistant trainer Alan Sherman said. "(The track) seems to be fast today. A little moisture last night, I think, tightened it up a bit."
California Chrome galloped out five furlongs in :59.93, six panels in 1:12.95, and seven-eighths in 1:26.28.
"I couldn't ask for anything more, it was a perfect work. He's ready," Sherman said in anticipation of the June 7 Belmont Stakes. "He galloped out great, exactly what we wanted today."
The hands-on assistant oversaw the move for his father, trainer Art Sherman, who will come in from their home base in Southern California later in the week. Following the work, Alan Sherman, who timed California Chrome in :47.50, said he "got the chills" watching their contender skim over the track.
California Chrome drilled without the blinkers he usually wears on race day "so he wouldn't go too fast," Sherman said. Plans call for the the chestnut colt to walk June 1, jog the track June 2, and gallop from June 3-6. A jog is also planned for the morning of June 7 prior to the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.
Also working May 31 at the New York oval were Social Inclusion for a possible start in the Belmont or the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs on the Belmont Stakes card, and Tonalist, Robert S. Evans' Peter Pan (gr. II) winner being aimed for a run in the Belmont.
Social Inclusion went three furlongs in a sizzling :33.48 under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. He galloped out a half-mile in :45 2/5, :58 flat for five furlongs, and three-quarters in 1:09 4/5.
Owner Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing said he and trainer Manny Azpurua expect to make a decision June 1 on which race the speedy Pioneerof the Nile colt wil contest.
"We're going to check the horse, see how he comes back (after the work)," Sanchez said. "Irad just told me he didn't think the horse went that fast, he was galloping; he said the horse came back breathing very good. He's extremely happy, he said, 'Wow, we have a shot with this horse!'
"After this workout, it was an eye-popping move. We weren't expecting that kind of workout," Sanchez added. "It surprised me and I started thinking about a lot of stuff. We're still 50-50; we're going to check the horse and we have to do what's best for him."
Tonalist, a Tapit colt who went out early to work in company with Easy Goer Stakes contender Life in Shambles for trainer Christophe Clement, got five furlongs in 1:00 with splits of :24 4/5 and :47 4/5, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 4/5.
"We are excited about the work and excited about the horse," said Clement. "I got him in a minute and am very happy about everything."
Tonalist won the Peter Pan by four lengths May 10 at Belmont Park over a sloppy, sealed main track. Prior to his Peter Pan score, the 3-year-old colt took a maiden race at Gulfstream Park during the winter, and finished second in an allowance/optional claimer, 3 1/4 lengths behind eventual Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Constitution .
Working elsewhere in preparation for the Belmont were My Meadowview Farm's Samraat, fifth in the Derby last time out for trainer Rick Violette; seventh-place Derby finisher Medal Count for Spendthrift Farm; and General a Rod, coming off a fourth in the Preakness for Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing partners.
Samraat worked an easy mile at Aqueduct Racetrack timed in 1:47.55, while Medal Count and General a Rod turned in their final preparations at Churchill Downs. General a Rod breezed five furlongs in 1:00 1/5, best of 10 at the distance on the day, while Medal Count went six furlongs in 1:10 3/5, best of eight.
"It was very, very good," said Violette, who trains the Noble Causeway colt for Len Riggio's My Meadowview Farm. "He went the last quarter in :24, which was just what we were looking for. He didn't break any stop watches, but it was pretty cool."
Samraat has not raced since the May 3 Kentucky Derby, in which he finished fifth after contesting the early pace. He started his career with five consecutive victories before finishing second behind Wicked Strong in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct.