Trainer Art Sherman eschewed his usual grandstand viewing spot for a ground-level one on the Del Mar turf course as California Chrome went through a gallop on the grass Thanksgiving morning just before 7 a.m. (PST).
The drill for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) winner, with exercise rider Willie Delgado up, was to reaffirm Sherman's belief that his star was ready for his first grass race, the $300,000 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) Nov. 29.
"They had a hard time pulling him up (on the backstretch), he was on the bit pretty good," Sherman said as he turned to cross the track back to the grandstand. "Now I feel a lot better. I liked it. It was just what I wanted."
California Chrome drew post position 5 in a field of six for Saturday's 1 1/8-mile test. The Hollywood Derby goes as the eighth on a nine-race program, with a post time of around 4 p.m. PST. First post is 12:30 p.m.
From the rail out the field is: Talco (Drayden Van Dyke), Lexie Lou (Corey Nakatani), Flamboyant (Mike Smith), Sawyer's Hill (Rafael Bejarano), California Chrome (Victor Espinoza), and Cabral (Kent Desormeaux).
Asked about the post position, Sherman said: "Well, I won the Derby from the No. 5 hole, so that's a lucky number for me."
California Chrome is the only Hollywood Derby runner that has not raced on the grass. Special permission was granted for the Thursday morning exercise. Only one other horse, Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) entrant La Tia, went over a turf course that was otherwise closed.
"I'm excited to see him run on the grass, it's a different scenario for me," Sherman said. "We should have a few Chromies (California Chrome fans) out here for it."
Sherman's early assessment of a likely race scenario: "It looks to me like there's speed to the inside. I don't think he'll be far off the pace. If somebody wants the lead, they can have it. They can't be going too slow, though; this time he'll come away from there running."