05/24/2014 12:03PM

California Chrome handles wet Belmont track just fine

Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome, with Willie Delgado aboard, gallops over a wet surface at Belmont Park on Saturday morning.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Being based mostly in Southern California, California Chrome had rarely, if ever, seen a wet track. During his Triple Crown run, California Chrome has seen his share of them in Kentucky, Baltimore, and especially here in New York.

If you listen to his exercise rider, Willie Delgado, California Chrome didn’t appear to like it at Churchill Downs but floated over it at Pimlico. On Saturday, for the third straight morning, California Chrome galloped nearly two miles over a wet Belmont Park surface, and he seemed to handle it just fine.

“Churchill wasn’t his favorite track; he never actually felt comfortable on it,” Delgado said Saturday morning, two hours after galloping California Chrome over a sealed, sloppy main track. “Even at Pimlico, when we went out that one day and it was raining, he floated over it. Here especially, he’s really taken to this tack ... I don’t see him having any problem with a wet track here.”

So far, California Chrome hasn’t encountered any problems in his week since winning the Preakness at Pimlico, putting him one step away from winning the Triple Crown. He arrived here Tuesday, jogged over a dry surface Wednesday, and has since galloped close to two miles each morning in the mud.

When he gallops, California Chrome goes slowly, bordering on tentatively, for the first part. But then he gets more fluid, and for the last three to four furlongs of the gallop, he picks it up.

“He’ll hobby-horse the first mile and a quarter. Once he gets to the three-eighths pole or half-mile pole, he locks on,” Delgado said. “The first couple of days, he was looking around. Today, he knew exactly where that three-eighths pole was, and he was pulling me harder than usual.”

Both Delgado and Alan Sherman, the assistant and son of trainer Art Sherman, said the way California Chrome has come out of the Preakness is “scary.”

“It’s amazing, but I think he keeps getting stronger. He keeps bouncing out of these races so fast, it’s kind of scary,” Alan Sherman said. “He’s just doing so good. Right now, I got no concerns the way he’s training and feeling. Everything’s going perfect right now – knock on wood.”

Said Delgado: “For him to bounce [back] that quick and then be that strong after the Preakness, it was like ‘wow!’ I’m not surprised that he took to the track that quick, but it’s good. Like I said, Churchill wasn’t his best track, and we all saw what he did. If he didn’t like it and won ... if he likes this one ...”

The wet track Saturday forced Christophe Clement, the trainer of Tonalist, and Rick Violette, the trainer of Samraat, to postpone scheduled workouts.

Tonalist, the winner of the Peter Pan Stakes in the slop, galloped 1 1/8 miles and was on the track at the same time as California Chrome, just before 6 a.m.

Clement noted that Tonalist developed sore feet during the winter in Florida, and he has been cautious about training him over wet surfaces.

“He got sore in his feet with me in Florida. It’s not a big deal, just have to be careful,” Clement said. “He moved very well this morning. If I get the same track [Sunday], he will probably breeze on it. I just thought by giving it one more day, if I can get a better track, why not?”

Violette had intended to van Samraat over to Belmont from Aqueduct on Saturday but scrapped that plan due to the wet surface. He said he would revisit the situation Sunday but said he would breeze on whichever track – Aqueduct or Belmont – he deemed in better shape.

The connections of Ride On Curlin altered their training schedule Saturday due to the wet surface, according to assistant trainer Bridget Lambert. Instead of galloping two miles as scheduled, Ride On Curlin galloped a mile.

Lambert said Ride On Curlin likely would gallop two miles Sunday and potentially have a workout midweek. Trainer Billy Gowan is expected to arrive Monday.

Among those expected to join Tonalist and Samraat on the work tab Sunday were Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong and the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Commissioner and Intense Holiday.

Candy Boy breezes

Candy Boy, a troubled 13th in the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Santa Anita on Saturday. Trainer John Sadler said he timed the colt in 59.80 seconds.

Sadler said a decision on Candy Boy’s status for the Belmont Stakes on June 7 will be made Monday or Tuesday.

“I’m keeping an open mind, looking to follow everything that’s going on,” he said. “I want to talk to the owner.”

Owned by Lee and Susan Searing, Candy Boy has won 2 of 8 starts and earned $425,600.