05/17/2014 6:24AM

Chrome report: Derby winner looks strong on race morning

Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome had an easy lap around the track Saturday morning at Pimlico in advance of the Preakness Stakes.

BALTIMORE – California Chrome took one easy lap around the Pimlico oval on a lovely Saturday morning as his connections put the finishing touches on preparations for the Preakness Stakes here later in the afternoon.

The Kentucky Derby winner, in appearance and demeanor, did nothing to suggest he won’t give a spirited performance seeking to add the Triple Crown’s second leg to his already burgeoning war chest. A current of energy rippled below California Chrome’s composed comportment. The colt’s chestnut coat remains radiant. He has held good weight two weeks after winning the Derby in decisive fashion. He is neither thin nor heavy. His muscle tone is formidable. He is the picture of an exceptional athlete in full bloom.

California Chrome arrived here Monday afternoon from Churchill Downs, and other than generating a flurry of speculative reports when he coughed after training Thursday morning, has had an uneventful five days here. The minor furor over the reportedly inconsequential throat blister that caused the cough has subsided.

“I think everything has gone perfect,” trainer Art Sherman said.

Sherman said he trains all his horses the morning of a race, nothing strenuous, but just enough to take the edge off a potentially anxious animal while maintaining routine.

“You train a horse every day, and they’re creatures of habit. If you just walk them, they can get tense. They’ll feel so much better the rest of the day if they get out. Now they can relax,” Sherman said.

California Chrome, Bayern, Kid Cruz, Pablo Del Monte, Ride On Curlin, and Ring Weekend, all trained on a clear, crisp Saturday dawn, a far cry from the miserable conditions brought about by wind and heavy rain 24 hours before. The track was opened to Preakness horses between 5 and 6 a.m. Saturday, though a handful of other stakes runners also took advantage of the brief training window.

California Chrome was the first horse on the track, walking over from his barn ridden by Willie Delgado and led by assistant trainer Alan Sherman about 5:20. Sherman, on the lead shank, had his hands full as California Chrome attempted to push his way off the horse path winding to the track. Delgado then guided California Chrome on a slow once-around tour, jogging the “wrong” way, Sherman caught him, and the three headed back to the barn.

California Chrome’s routine will continue along typical lines until about two hours before the Preakness, when his feed and water will be removed. If he doesn’t know already, that will signal the colt that something different is up today. That it’s time to go out and run as fast as he can again for the first time in two weeks.