He'd never been on an airplane before, so California Chrome didn't necessarily know how to get off one, either.
The Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner and likely favorite for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) stood at the top of a ramp on Tex Sutton's "Air Horse One" flight from California and took in the view—Louisville International Airport on a drizzly early afternoon on April 28—then considered the lengthy ramp down to a waiting Bob Hubbard van.
Nope, not gonna do it.
In the end, the blaze-faced chestnut was backed smoothly down the ramp by a capable crew to pick up his ride, and from there the trip to Churchill Downs was a piece of cake. California Chrome took in the scenery in typically alert fashion, never turning a hair on his first voyage outside the Golden State.
Also shipping in aboard the Tex Sutton flight was Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Dance With Fate.
New York-bred Samraat , runner-up in the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (gr. I) and winner of the Gotham (gr. III) and Withers Stakes (gr. III) was expected at Churchill later in the evening.
Alan Sherman, assistant to his father—trainer Art Sherman—said it was no surprise that California Chrome then backed off the van upon arrival at the Louisville oval's backstretch, where he was greeted by news crews and reporters lined up on either side of the path leading into Barn 20.
"He's always been that way for some reason," Sherman said with a grin. "He walks right on with no problem, but he has to back on and off of there."
Perry Martin and Steve Coburn's homebred son of Lucky Pulpit, gallops into the Kentucky Derby off four straight victories by a combined 24 1/4 lengths. He aced the Santa Anita Derby by 5 1/4 lengths, took the San Felipe (gr. II) by 7 1/4 lengths, and defeated Cal-breds in the California Cup Derby by 5 1/2 to start his year after closing 2012 with a 6 1/4-length rumble in the King Glorious Stakes.
His current record stands at six wins and a second from 10 starts with earnings of $1,134,850, and he is number one on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 150 qualifying points to make the 20-horse field.
California Chrome will get his first feel for the Churchill track April 29 at 7 a.m. EDT for a jog under regular rider William Delgado.
Ride along with California Chrome as he arrives in Louisville, Kentucky: