11/30/2014 12:52PM

California Chrome in fine shape after winning turf debut

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Emily Shields
California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby by two lengths Saturday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Looking fresh, fit, and, if you got too close to him, quite dangerous, California Chrome was in fine condition at Del Mar on Sunday morning, the day after he made a successful move to the turf when capturing the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

“He came out of the race real good,” trainer Art Sherman said as California Chrome was being walked Sunday morning. “His knees and ankles are nice and tight. I couldn’t be happier.”

California Chrome enjoyed his time in the morning sun so much that he repeatedly balked at being put back into his stall and finally had to be backed into it. He also started to get a bit studdish, displaying the wares that will not be needed in the breeding shed for at least another year, since he is to remain in training at age 4 in 2015.

“He’s still a stallion, and he’ll let you know it every once in a while,” Sherman said.

California Chrome was scheduled to return to Sherman’s main barn at Los Alamitos on Sunday afternoon. Sherman said he would continue to keep California Chrome in light training, reticent is he to let the horse down too much.

“I won’t work him too quick back, but I’ve got to train him because he gets too high otherwise,” Sherman said.

Plans are for California Chrome to not race again until the early part of 2015, initially at Santa Anita. After that, Sherman and owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn will have to decide whether to head to a race like the Dubai World Cup, which is back on dirt next year.

The win on turf Saturday also opens possibilities on that surface for next year, which was one of the reasons Sherman was eager to try him on it. Sherman said his previous years as a jockey taught him which horses would like grass.

“You can tell by their movement. I never liked a high reacher, a horse who had high action in front,” he said. “You want a horse like him, who carries his head lower and skips across the ground. It’s a different feeling, and he’s got it.”

Sherman said he enjoyed the reception California Chrome got both before and after the race.

“When he was coming through the tunnel, people were chanting his name. He’s a real rock star,” Sherman said.

So, California Chrome completes his 2014 campaign with six wins in nine starts, including four Grade 1 wins – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Hollywood Derby. He is the only horse in this country with Grade 1 wins on turf and dirt.

When California Chrome returns in 2015, it will be after the Eclipse Awards are announced in mid-January. California Chrome figures to be a top candidate for two awards – champion male 3-year-old and Horse of the Year.

“He’s one of those horses that I’m very fortunate to have,” Sherman said. “He’s quite a horse.”