California Chrome galloping on May 23.
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California Chrome galloping on May 23.
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Coglianese Photos

California Chrome Unfazed by Opossum on Track

Triple Crown contender was completing daily gallop May 23 when critter crossed track.

Triple Crown contender California Chrome  was unfazed the morning of May 23 when he encountered an opossum that decided to cross the main track at Belmont Park near the end of the colt's daily gallop.

California Chrome, who on June 7 will attempt to add the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) to his victories in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Preakness Stakes (both gr. I), didn't even flinch as he passed the cat-sized marsupial near the gap. He completed his 1 3/4-mile gallop much to the satisfaction of exercise rider Willie Delgado and assistant trainer Alan Sherman.

"We have coyotes on the track at Los Alamitos; it was no big deal," said Alan Sherman, assistant to his father, Art Sherman. "The track was a little heavier than it was yesterday, but (California Chrome) seemed to handle it fine."

Sherman said California Chrome likely would school in the paddock once or twice next week, and also school in the starting gate as part of his preparations for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.

The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.

"It's hard to remember that far back," said Sherman, who has spent his whole life around the racetrack with his father, a former jockey who was the exercise rider for 1955 Derby winner Swaps. "I do remember Steve Cauthen riding Affirmed. That was an amazing rivalry with him and Alydar. Steve CauthenI guess I was 10 years oldhe was like an idol. I wanted to be a jockey long before that, (but) that was an inspiration. It's amazing how young he was when he accomplished that."

Sherman, 45, did fulfill his dream of becoming a jockey but said he quickly "ate myself out of that job" and became his father's assistant.

"I enjoy working with my father," he said. "I like the family camaraderie. It's a good fit."