Louisville, Ky. • Before his workload and the scrutiny become heavier next week, California Chrome will enjoy a few light days.
The Kentucky Derby champion looked fresh following his 1¾-length victory at Churchill Downs on Saturday and seemed to be handling the ensuing fame quite well. After a Sunday morning walk and bath, the chestnut colt stood tall and proud like a runway model, making sure photographers got plenty of pictures.
With attention likely to increase as California Chrome heads to Pimlico for the Preakness on May 17, trainer Art Sherman wants his horse as relaxed as possible before returning to work. The horse will rest this week at Churchill Downs before flying to Baltimore next Monday to prepare for the Triple Crown’s next jewel.
For Sherman, 77, it means adjusting his training routine from several weeks between starts to just a few with the Preakness followed by the Belmont Stakes on June 7. Which is why California Chrome will remain at racing’s most famous track instead of flying back home or arriving early to prepare for the longer 1 3/16-mile race at Pimlico.
“Rather than shift to different tracks, he likes it here, he likes his surroundings,” said Sherman, who became the oldest trainer to win the Derby. “Let him freshen up for a few days and we’ll get over there probably four or five days before just to school him like I always do.”
Sherman’s strategy certainly worked for California Chrome in the Derby, where the 5-2 favorite became the first California-bred champion since Decidedly in 1962.
Jockey Victor Espinoza’s decision to lay off early in a slower-than-expected race also paid off, allowing California Chrome to save his best for the stretch in the 19-horse field. He went on to his fifth straight win and seventh in 11 starts. Commanding Curve was second and Danza third.
Despite the huge spotlight and expectations, California Chrome fulfilled them in racing’s marquee event by remaining unfazed. He was just as laid back Sunday morning while soaking up attention from media and visitors.
“He’s pretty good that way, just takes everything in stride,” said Alan Sherman, who co-trains the horse with his father. “He got a little worked up Saturday on his way over to the paddock, but once he got in he was fine. He just loves to train and loves to run, that horse.”
Stride is the operative word for California Chrome this week. Alan Sherman said the horse will walk for a few days before jogging and then traveling.
While Alan Sherman handles those duties, his dad will be back in Southern California tending to his other horses. Sherman figures to get a hero’s reception and he welcomes the break after getting little sleep following his biggest victory, a whirlwind that included several rounds of interviews.
California Chrome’s low maintenance has allowed Sherman the luxury of getting away.
“I don’t really have to do too much with him, just keep him happy, keep him fresh,” Sherman said. “He’s coming back in two weeks, and I’ve never run horses back in two weeks as a rule. I’m more seven weeks, six weeks...
“I’ll let the horse tell me. I’m not going to be no fancy-works, no fancy-this, just keep him fresh.”