05/18/2014 8:54AM

California Chrome tired but healthy after Preakness

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Justin N. Lane
California Chrome emerged from his victory Saturday in the Preakness tired but otherwise fine, according to his trainer, Art Sherman.

BALTIMORE – California Chrome emerged from his win in the Preakness Stakes tired but otherwise fine, trainer Art Sherman said Sunday morning here at Pimlico, where California Chrome will remain for a few more days before heading to Belmont Park and a bid for a Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.

“I’m going to let him unwind,” Sherman said outside the stakes barn. “He’ll go to Belmont on Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Even though California Chrome had run his second tough race in two weeks, when he was taken out of his stall around 7 a.m. Sunday by Alan Sherman, Art’s son and assistant, he aggressively walked the shedrow.

“He’s dragging Alan around there,” Sherman said, marveling.

Sherman said his son would remain with California Chrome daily on the East Coast. Sherman is returning Monday to California to oversee his stable at Los Alamitos. He said he would come to New York about a week before the Belmont and said California Chrome likely would have one work in New York.

“He doesn’t need much. I just want to keep him fresh,” Sherman said. “He came back in two weeks. Now it’s three weeks. I usually don’t like to run until five or six weeks. Now it’s two more major races in five weeks. It’s tough on horses. He’ll get a nice break after the Belmont.”

As of Sunday, it appeared the Belmont field would also include Commanding Curve, Commissioner, Danza, Intense Holiday, Kid Cruz, Ride On Curlin, Samraat, Social Inclusion, Tonalist, and Wicked Strong.

Ride On Curlin, second in the Preakness, will travel to Belmont at the same time as California Chrome.

Sherman, a realist by nature after being on the racetrack for 60 years, has become increasingly confident that California Chrome can become the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978.

“There’s going to be a lot of new shooters,” Sherman said, referring to horses like Commanding Curve, Danza, and Wicked Strong, who ran 2-3-4 behind California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby and bypassed the Preakness to point for the Belmont. “But, hey, listen, I’m not worried about it. I think I’ve got the right horse. You just have to keep your fingers crossed, that everything goes well, that he trains well. But I’m really confident. After what I saw yesterday – horses taking runs at him, coming back in two weeks – they better have their running shoes on. I think the mile and a half will be no problem. He gallops two miles at Los Alamitos every morning, and the second time around, he’s stronger than the first time around. To last that long in a race that far takes a horse who can rate, and he’s an easy horse to rate.”

Sherman thought the way California Chrome won the Preakness, fending off multiple challenges while coming back on two weeks’ rest for the first time in his career, might have been his finest performance yet.

“He had to be put in a drive at the half-mile pole. He couldn’t let that other horse take his path away,” Sherman said, referring to Social Inclusion, who moved outside California Chrome entering the far turn. “It was pretty impressive to me, coming back in two weeks. He overcame everything. He showed a lot of courage, this horse.”

California Chrome has now won six straight races, all with jockey Victor Espinoza and all while using a Flair nasal strip, whose use was denied for I’ll Have Another two years ago by Belmont Park stewards when he was scheduled to bid for the Triple Crown before being scratched with a career-ending injury. It is not a state board rule or even a Belmont Park house rule. It’s solely up to the stewards’ discretion.

Sherman said he hoped California Chrome would be able to use the nasal strip.

“That’s a bogus type of thing,” he said when informed about the policy in New York. “All over the country, they let you run with it. Why wouldn’t they in New York?”

Sherman said Perry Martin, who co-owns California Chrome with Steve Coburn, first suggested using the nasal strip. He said Martin might go so far as to withdraw the colt from the Belmont if the policy was still in place.