California Chrome gave a little toss of the head under regular exercise rider Dihigi Gladney on the backstretch May 28 at Los Alamitos Race Course, and across the track, looking through the infield palm trees, trainer Art Sherman knew the chestnut was ready to run.
"When he gets that way and wants to run off, you know he's getting ready and getting stronger and stronger," Sherman said.
The 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit looked plenty strong during his half-mile breeze early Saturday morning at the Orange County, Calif., racetrack, all alone under the lights at about 5:30 a.m. PDT. Sherman timed the four furlongs in :47 4/5, while Los Alamitos clocker Russ Hudak had the 2014 Horse of the Year in :48 4/5 with a gallop out to five furlongs in 1:01 4/5.
Either way, his trainer was pleased after the drill, the third since his victory in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) with a short layoff at Taylor Made Farm in between.
"I'm just really happy the way everything is going right now," Sherman said of his breeze in preparation for the July 23 San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar. "Hopefully we can continue on the trail we're going. I can see the difference between this work and last week. He was gliding. He was blowing a little last week, but now he's getting where he doesn't hardly even blow out a candle. He's getting stronger and fitter."
Sherman said California Chrome put on about 45 pounds at Taylor Made after the World Cup, significantly less than his longer stint at the farm in 2015, which has allowed the trainer to get him in shape quicker. In his fourth work June 4, Sherman said his top trainee will likely stretch out to five furlongs.
Sherman will also add binkers, which California Chrome also uses to race, in about a month when the trainer wants to sharpen him up with quicker works.
"When we get a little more serious, we'll slap them on and get a little more focused," Sherman said.
Sherman also beamed when talk turned to potentially running California Chrome as a 6-year-old in 2017. California Chrome LLC has already purchased a spot in the gate for the inaugural $12 Pegasus World Cup in January.
"They were figuring out how much money he could be running for next year—purse money is almost $37 million," Sherman said of the Pegasus, the Dubai World Cup, Breeders' Cup, and other lucrative stakes that could be on his schedule. "All that's going to be coming up. It's hard to believe, isn't it? I'll let them think about that. It would be great for me. I'd love to have him. They're talking about it. That's what's good."
Sherman was his normal jocular self Saturday morning at his standard post on the Los Al homestretch at Schwanies At The Gap, trading good-natured barbs with Quarter Horse trainer John Cooper. What could be better than watching his big horse work?
"Oh, gee. One more year with him?" Sherman said with a laugh. "I might have to buy me a Quarter Horse and run against Coop."