05/15/2014 1:24PM

California Chrome wearing target in Preakness


BALTIMORE – The silks jockey Victor Espinoza wears when he rides California Chrome have a donkey on the back. The colt’s trainer, Art Sherman, thinks that because of California Chrome’s daylight victory in the Kentucky Derby and his overwhelming favoritism in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes here at Pimlico, there will be a target on his back.

So, this Preakness boils down to mere child’s play – a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

Either California Chrome gets boxed in by rivals ganging up on him – who try to pin him in from post 3, taking him out of his comfort zone – or, as he has done in his last five starts, California Chrome toys with this bunch.

That is why Sherman believes the first part of the Preakness will be the most important. The race is 1 3/16 miles, the shortest of the Triple Crown races, but what concerns Sherman is the position in the gate that California Chrome has in relation to other horses who like to be prominent in the early part of the race.

“All the speed’s outside him,” Sherman said. “Being a former rider, when you’ve got the favorite down inside, you want to put pressure on him. But he’s not chicken-hearted, by no means. My biggest concern is the first 70 yards leaving the gate. I don’t want him to get impeded, behind horses with no place to go. All you can do is hope for a good trip.”

::2014 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more

Espinoza has been able to work out good trips for California Chrome in all five of their starts together, all wins, including the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby. Sherman is enjoying the journey, so much so that while he obviously wants to win Saturday, he feels as though he’s playing with house money.

“The Derby’s the Derby,” he said. “That’s the race every trainer thinks about. It’s a bigger thrill than you could imagine. The horse doesn’t have much to prove. The Triple Crown is quite a challenge, but I’d feel really delighted if I could win a race like the Preakness. The Triple Crown means so much, but I’m old school. Let’s just go one race at a time.

“I was just so happy when he won the Santa Anita Derby, so thankful to get that race under my belt. I’d love to win the next two races, but the pressure’s off. I’m more relaxed. If we get lucky, fine. Sometimes I’ve got to pinch myself. Even if he never wins another race, he’s won the Kentucky Derby.”

California Chrome beat 18 others in the Derby two weeks ago, but only two of those horses – Ride On Curlin (seventh) and General a Rod (11th) – are back to challenge again. The rest of the field is made up of newcomers to the Triple Crown trail, including well-regarded colts like Bayern (disqualified from victory for bumping in the Derby Trial) and Social Inclusion (third in the Wood Memorial) and the filly Ria Antonia, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall via disqualification and is winless since.

The others are Dynamic Impact, the Illinois Derby winner; Kid Cruz, who won the Federico Tesio Stakes here last month; Pablo Del Monte, third in the Blue Grass Stakes; and Ring Weekend, second in the Calder Derby last out.

If they all run their best race, though, California Chrome is clearly superior. His five consecutive wins have been by an average margin of more than five lengths, and in each race, he has blown the race open at the top of the stretch.

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“He’s a push-button horse,” Sherman said. “He doesn’t have to go to the lead, but if you ask him to run, he’ll give you a burst. The way he wins races, blows them away, blows my mind. Sometimes he amazes me how he’s filled out. He’s a beautiful horse. It’s like watching a kid grow up.”

Hope for an upset rests on California Chrome coming back in two weeks, having a difficult trip, or perhaps not adapting properly to the wild swings in weather here. It was hot and dry when he arrived Monday and again Tuesday. It was overcast and humid Wednesday and Thursday. And according to The Weather Channel, heavy rain was forecast for Friday before clearing Saturday.

“One day, it’s hot. The next, it’s raining,” Sherman said.

California Chrome does have a small blister in his throat, which Alan Sherman, Art Sherman’s son and top assistant, described as a pimple. He said it appeared before the Derby, went down after treatment, and came back this week.

The throat is being treated again with a wash that is “all glycerin to coat it,” Alan Sherman said. He said blood work drawn Thursday was perfect, indicating no infection. He did not sound concerned in the least.

“Maybe we’ll get a bigger price,” Alan Sherman said.

California Chrome is 3-5 on the track morning line and 2-5 on the line of Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form ’s national handicapper. Both have Social Inclusion as the second choice.

“The horse shows he belongs with this group,” said Ron Sanchez, who owns Social Inclusion. “I think California Chrome is a nice horse, but I think we have a chance to beat him. California Chrome proved he’s a serious horse. You have to respect that.”

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Social Inclusion, starting from post 8, is expected to go for the lead, with the likes of Bayern (post 5) and Pablo Del Monte (post 9) also prominent early. Espinoza, on California Chrome, likely will have two options leaving the gate – outrun those horses if the pace is surprisingly soft or let them cross over and take up an ideal stalking position.

“He likes a target. If he’s fourth on the backside in a clear path, I think you’ll see ol’ Chrome perform,” Art Sherman said.

The Preakness is the 12th race on a 13-race card that begins at 10:45 a.m. Eastern. It will be shown live on NBC during a two-hour telecast beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. There are seven other stakes preceding the Preakness, the first five of those taking place during an NBCSN show that airs 1-4:30 p.m. There also is a post-race show 6:30-7 p.m. on NBCSN.

Charles Legaspie More than 1 year ago
Two words that I mentioned about SI a couple of days ago: Distance Limited! How do you like SI now?! Why don't you tell us how SI will beat Chrome again! Hahahaha
sjm80s . More than 1 year ago
Lonnie Lee More than 1 year ago
I think a new shooter will win SL OR ROC at the end of the derby cc stride got really short the jock didn't let up until the last 20 yards or so not a hater just MY OPINION.
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
Boxing 1,3.9.10. Good luck
Holybull More than 1 year ago
I have no doubt CC will win today. It's the Belmont where the true test of stamina will be.
Anne Baxter More than 1 year ago
Only way he loses is if he breaks down. His jockey admitted that he hasn't asked him to run in prior races. The competition is that weak and we will probably never know how good CC is or isn't.
Paul F More than 1 year ago
hope sat better than fri...whole day sucked, one race only had 3 HORSES..
Cole Putzier More than 1 year ago
He destroyed a tougher field than this in the SA derby.
Gunner More than 1 year ago
Bright skies and a fast track lead to a million possibilities with Turf fans, Jockey Club members, rat finks, infielders with drinks, bettors with too much money, others with too little, ma and pa from Arkansas, someone who saw Man O' War, Billy, Barry, John and Harry and some guy that owes the cabbie 10.50. Eventually, the race will be run. I'm with Swiftest!
Paul More than 1 year ago
Most people here know little about horses and are front runners. Oh SI is distance limited? Why bc he was foolishly asked to run in a gr one from post eleven in his third start and lost by 4 lengths on a day where speed didn't hold well in routes. If he won he'd have been a freak and the derby favorite. Horses like midnight hawk have consistently shown their ability to lose to anybody and horses like kobes back is a head case and a sprinter. Then you have those that say who beat SI and what did chrome do to them? Well he won on a speed favoring track again and wicked was coming as was Dan and curve who nobody seemed to like but me galloped out 5 in front. Remember that cc lost to Kobe and twice to tamarando who will be running for 35 by the end of the year. So giving a horse who was hyped grief for running against a closers bias, shipping into cold weather with no acclimatization as well as trying what no horse has done with accolades as he did in his third start should shut up. Cc lost to rats. Rats who may never win another race yet he's great when the filly is clearly superior to him? If SI is as real as his first two races were and gained anything from the wood he will beat chrome. The same way bernardini looked better than barbaro. Barbaro broken leg or not would have lost. If SI is just a speed favoring track needing horse he can still win. If he was a one hit wonder it still doesn't mean chrome is a cinch. Roc had a horrible ride and a rod s race was a throw out. There were four horses without trouble in the derby and chrome was one if them. I said a week prior if most speeds get off bad, take back and he breaks and gets a soft pace to chase he will win. He got another perfect trip. Where were those trips before five starts ago? If assmussen wasn't being looked at untapable would be in the Preakness and would be the favorite. If SI won the wood he'd have been the favorite in the derby. These are simple truths. Yet most of you are foolishly looking to give him 3 year old of the year when many tc race winners don't guarantee winning 3 year old of the year. At least he should run in the bc classic and I'd hate to have the filly even run at sa as that's the only place she's not a beast at. If cc loses tomorrow I don't want to hear how he got speed popped, stayed too close or any other excuses. Tomorrows race is basically his if not for SI and g a r and roc. Anybody else and he's a bum. If bayern, a confirmed horse like hawk that finds horses to beat him at a route would be an interesting surprise that I won't cash in. I hated him in his last two so he will probably gallop tomorrow lol.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
See a Doctor .
Bruce Eckhoff More than 1 year ago
If you read Paul's post you would think poor SI had no chance in he Wood. Somehow he was 2 in front turning for home.....amazing. An incredible effort against all odds he still managed to get 3rd. Awesome. Was he 20-1? No, he was the 8-5 fave. But, like I said in the previous post, Si will be underlaid and this reasoning is why. Of course Paul goes on to say that even if Chromester wins he is still a bum. Nice.
Walter More than 1 year ago
To make a long story short, Paul likes SI?
Charles Legaspie More than 1 year ago
Yes you guys are right. Paul loves SI. Just like in the wood memorial, the only thing SI will be doing is looking around for a respirator when he enters the stretch. Just like jerry bailey said immediately after the wood memorial, the owners should've taken the $8 mil and ran.
nick More than 1 year ago
Paul, You simple remark 'Bernardini would have beaten Barbaro' negates everything else you said. I would debate, but there is no point.
Nyra StretchRunner More than 1 year ago
Would help a lot if you break up your post in bite sized 5-6 line paragraphs. Your points may be valid, but nobody will read your post. Peace. NSR
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
You need to see Dr Vinny Boombatz. He can help you