California Chrome Stretches Legs at Belmont
Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome was out for some exercise on Belmont Park's main track the morning of June 2, jogging once clockwise around the 1 1/2-mile oval under regular exercise rider Willie Delgado.
The handsome chestnut colt, who is easy to spot on the track with his distinctive white blaze, walked the shedrow Sunday morning following Saturday's final serious work for $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I). The winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) is attempting to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to sweep all three races and become the 12th Triple Crown winner.
California Chrome is scheduled to resume galloping Tuesday morning. Trainer Art Sherman is expected to be on hand. The 77-year-old trainer returned to California following the Preakness, with his son, Alan, overseeing the colt's preparations in New York.
Among other Belmont contenders, Tonalist appears to have bounced out of his May 31 morning work in good shape, according to trainer Christophe Clement.
"He went a mile and a quarter today and trained well," said Clement. "Everything is good; we'll plan on the same tomorrow. He schooled yesterday at lunch time and might school once more, either Wednesday or Thursday."
On May 31, Tonalist went five furlongs in 1:00.11 over a tight Belmont main track, working in company with Life In Shambles an hour before California Chrome put in his final serious work before the June 7 Belmont Stakes.
The son of Tapit , owned by Robert S. Evans, captured the Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont by four lengths over another likely Belmont starter, Commissioner. The Belmont Stakes will mark only his fifth career start.
Clement says he has familiarized himself with the prospective field, but that ultimately Tonalist's fate is in the hands of jockey Joel Rosario.
"I've got a pretty good idea who's running, but I'm going to leave that up to [Joel Rosario]," said Clement. "I train and the jockey rides, and he's very good at what he does. My deal is to bring him there as fit as possible and feeling as good as possible and perfectly sound, and [Rosario] will have to worry about the race."
TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Wicked Strong had a quiet morning, walking the shed row of trainer Jimmy Jerkens' barn following Sunday's bullet five-furlong breeze in :59.10 over Belmont's training track.
"We just wanted a decent work, and we got it," Jerkens said. "He's doing good."
Owned by Centennial Farms, Wicked Strong stumbled in the May 3 Kentucky Derby and ran into traffic before rallying to be fourth, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by California Chrome. Jerkens bypassed the Preakness on May 17 to point for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
"Unless you thought your horse had a real good excuse, which I guess we did, we just thought it would have been better to skip the Preakness," Jerkens said. "We thought we had the best shot in the Belmont out of all of them, even before we went to Kentucky. There's nothing like the Derby, but we thought the Belmont fit the horse a little better."
A victory by Wicked Strong would follow in the family tradition established by his father, Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, now 85, who gained a reputation as the "Giant Killer" for upsetting horses such as Secretariat, Kelso and Buckpasser.
"You can't concede races to horses," Jimmy Jerkens said. "You have to take a shot."
Jerkens said his father, now based at Gulfstream Park year-round, did not offer any words of wisdom for the Belmont.
"No, and I didn't think he would, either," Jerkens said. "If there was something glaring that he thought he should say something about, I'm sure he would. He's a man of few words."
With trainer Dallas Stewart holding the shank, Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve enthusiastically grazed outside Barn 9 Monday morning after putting in his final tune-up for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
"He looks great," Stewart said. "He ate good last night, cooled out good yesterday, has good energy today, and his appetite's good. Everything so far is good with him."
This is the second straight year that Stewart comes to New York with a horse that ran second in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. Golden Soul was ninth of 14 behind Palace Malice in the 2013 Belmont.
"This horse, we were able to train a little more steady and a little more aggressive," Stewart said. "The other horse lost a little weight out of [the Derby]. It was muddy and he ran so hard, it was hard to get him back on that plateau. He felt good enough to run, but it just took some time with him."
Stewart said both Golden Soul and filly Unbridled Forever both emerged from Sunday's works in good shape. Golden Soul went a half-mile in :47.15 and Unbridled Forever covered the same distance in :48.59, both over the main track.
Golden Soul will run in the $500,000 Brooklyn Invitational (gr. II) at 1 1/2 miles, and Unbridled Forever is scheduled to start in the $750,000 TVG Acorn (Gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies. Both races are part of Saturday's Belmont undercard.
"I'm very happy with all my horses," Stewart said. "They each bounced back out of their races good. I'm looking forward to Saturday."
Despite being one of only three horses this year in position to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown, Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin continues to flourish for trainer Billy Gowan.
The bay son of 2007 Belmont Stakes runner-up Curlin walked the shedrow Monday morning following his seven-furlong work in 1:28.03 over Belmont's main track on Sunday.
The Belmont will be the seventh start this year for Ride On Curlin, who was seventh behind California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby.
"He's perfect. Real good. I couldn't hold him on the ground," Gowan said. "He was like that the day after the Derby, too. He's just a tough horse; you can't knock him out. I worked him seven-eighths yesterday and he was bucking and playing this morning. I had to walk him with the lip chain. It's pretty amazing really. You don't find horses like that every day."
Once again, Ride On Curlin shares a shedrow with California Chrome, who pushed his win streak to six races with a 1 1/2-length victory in the Preakness. The margin was the closest any horse has gotten to the Triple Crown hopeful during the streak.
"It's fun being in it, for sure. Being part of the Triple Crown is great," Gowan said. "This is just another race to me. You pull the girth the same as you do on a $5,000 claimer. It's a fact. You don't do anything different. You bridle them, you put the chamois on, you pull the girth and hope the rider doesn't screw it up."
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott continues to be pleased with the way Belmont contender Matuszak is progressing into the race.
The son of 2006 3-year-old champion Bernardini walked this morning after going five furlongs in 1:00.94 in company with stablemate Maximus Mike on Sunday.
"He looks fine," Mott said. "He worked well, and he's feeling good."
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