Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome had his first gallop around the 1 1/2-mile oval at Belmont Park May 22, going out on a sloppy track shortly after 6 a.m. EDT with exercise rider Willie Delgado aboard.
California Chrome will attempt to become the first horse in 36 years to add the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 7 to victories in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The chestnut colt galloped an easy 1 3/4 miles on the wet main track.
California Chrome arrived in New York May 20. He had a slow jog on the track the following day.
"I just wanted to get out before the track got chewed up and he skipped over that track," said Alan Sherman, who is the assistant to his father, trainer Art Sherman. "I was amazed as to how good he looked out there. The track did not seem heavy, just wet and sloppy. No one really wants to train over a chewed up track so that is why (he) went our earlier today than planned. We'll probably do the same tomorrow."
The trip to New York for the 146th running of the Belmont, the oldest and longest jewel of racing's Triple Crown, marks the first time Alan Sherman had experienced Belmont Park, the largest dirt track in North America.
"The place is massive," said Sherman, whose father was born in Brooklyn. "Your horse looks like an ant down there. The place is huge but I'm real happy with the surface and as long as Chrome likes it, I like it. It's kind of intimidating, as big as it is when you first look at it, but we can handle it."
Sherman reported that Delgado, California Chrome's regular exercise rider, was equally pleased with the way the son of Lucky Pulpit handled the track. "He just said, 'Wow,' " Sherman. "He said (the horse) just skipped over the track."
California Chrome will have one work prior to the Belmont, an easy half-mile May 31, with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard. The jockey and horse are undefeated in six starts.
"He seems to have lots left in the tank right now and I'm not going to over train him by any means right now," Sherman said. "I'm just going to keep him fresh and happy. If he works in :48 or :49, that will be perfect. We don't need a fast work; if he is not fit by now, he'll never be fit.
"Victor has been working this horse for a while. He is going to fly in and work California Chrome and then he'll try and get some mounts (the) afternoon of (the Belmont Stakes) and fly back on Sunday. Victor has been doing this for a long time, and he is a professional and he knows what he is doing."
Since Affirmed became the 11th horse to win racing's most elusive prize in 1978, 12 others have come into the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown, but none have succeeded. In 2012, I'll Have Another won the first two legs but did not compete in the Belmont.
"I don't see anything (they have in common as to) why they didn't win; they look like they just got outrun," Sherman said. "I still think I can win the Triple Crown; I wouldn't be here if I didn't."