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Hovdey: California Chrome up for some down time
Art Sherman leaned down and braced himself against the right front leg of California Chrome, lifted the colt’s foot, and peeled off the white bell boot protecting the hoof. California Chrome shifted his weight.
“Easy boy,” Sherman said.
California Chrome complied and allowed Sherman to take a good look at the back of the foot. The trainer ran his thumb over a barely visible scar line just above the coronet band.
“It’s gone,” Sherman said. “You can’t hardly see it at all.”
It had been 32 days since California Chrome had gotten that right front foot tangled with the hooves of longshot Matterhorn at the start of the Belmont Stakes, and now here he was, in one of the roomy, tree-shaded grass paddocks reserved for the stallions at Harris Farms in California’s drought-stricken Central Valley. His copper coat was flecked with dirt and he was working on a mouthful of carrot, courtesy of farm manager Dave McGlothlin at the shank.
“He was clean when we turned him out, but he loves to roll – over there, and there,” McGlothlin said, pointing to a couple of well-worn spots along the paddock fence. “He’s enjoying it so much now it’s getting harder to catch him unless you bring some bait.”
Isolated as an island of Thoroughbreds in a vast countryside of beef cattle and agriculture, Harris Farms still is a linchpin of the California breeding business and home to such stallions as Unusual Heat, the California leader, and Lucky Pulpit, sire of California Chrome, who was born at Harris Farms. Among its residents is Love the Chase, the dam of California Chrome, along with her yearling and weanling fillies.
Sherman gently lowered California Chrome’s foot and backed away to enjoy the view. California Chrome had been at Harris Farms since June 19 for some R&R after the rigors of the Triple Crown campaign, and Sherman had not seen him since.
“I’m really pleased about the way that cut’s healed,” Sherman said. “I pushed on it a little and got nothing from him at all.”
The cut was one of several things that did not go well for California Chrome in the Belmont, depriving him of making history as the 12th winner of the Triple Crown for owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn. The start was rough, the trip was cramped down the backstretch and wide on the turn, but at the end of the 1 1/2 miles the cold fact remained that three horses ran faster.
Sherman took a deep breath after the Belmont and decided the Triple Crown was not meant to be. He would have to settle for his colt winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. At 77, the trainer could live with that.
“Looking back, there were a bunch of little things not going quite right that might have added up,” Sherman said. “One thing everybody noticed was that he wasn’t acting the same in the paddock in New York as he did before the Derby and the Preakness.”
Let the tittering begin. Horses, as everyone must know by now, compete without pants. This means that a stallion may, on occasion, forget he is in full public view and indulge himself with an erection, which leads to no end of lame cracks and snickers, from horsemen and fans alike. California Chrome was on display before going postward at the Derby and again at the Preakness.
“Bob Baffert said something to me watching him at Pimlico,” Sherman said. “I told him, ‘Bob, before you say anything else you should know I’m wearing a microphone from NBC.’ ”
Whether or not California Chrome’s prerace studdishness had anything to do with his impressive victories in Louisville and Baltimore is unknown. They test for TCO2, not blood flow.
In the Belmont paddock, however, all was quiet. Sherman did not minimize (yes, I wrote that) the change in California Chrome’s demeanor.
“You get used to everything about a horse when everything is right,” Sherman said. “For whatever reason he was different that day in that one respect.”
As if to reassure his trainer all was well, standing there in the warm Central Valley sun, California Chrome proudly unfurled the flag. Sherman laughed, shook his head, and changed the subject.
“You can see he’s put on a little weight in the belly, but I expected that,” the trainer said. “Especially since they tell me he doesn’t do much running around. He appears to be taking the idea of a vacation seriously.”
After Sherman consulted with McGlothlin and farm trainer Per Antonsen, it was decided that California Chrome would return to the Sherman stable at Los Alamitos the following week. There the colt will prepare for a two-race fall campaign that would include something at the end of September – perhaps even a race at Los Alamitos – followed by the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 2.
Sherman concluded his visit with an affectionate stroke of the colt’s neck and then, as he headed for the paddock gate, one last appreciative look at his double classic winner.
“Would you look at that,” Sherman said. “The Kentucky Derby winner, out here in the middle of nowhere.”
“Want to see his little sister?” McGlothlin asked.
“You mean the Kentucky Oaks winner?” Sherman said. “Lead the way.”
The horse is up for some downtime. The owners are the ones that need a long layoff from microphones, tape recorders and press releases.
Dee Question? Why do you continually bash the owners regarding greed? Just read BH, as you're aware can't do anything else there but read and your comments to several are,as if this is a big deal. Is the owner of Ria greedy for placing her in the one of the legs of the Triple Crown when everyone knew was over her head? That's what I label greed. Look how her career is mismanaged,please say I'm incorrect. You're very well versed and you indicate to owning horses that compete. Should be obvious to you how expensive this business,as someone said the owners aren't rich. Someone I know, his brother won 50k last month playing slots,out of that he went home with 38,after taxes. Taxes aren't cheap regarding racing,as you're aware of. Can make the case to you that many owners are greedy in a bad way by running a horse when he's not able and/or placing them in a race way over their heads. Am i wrong? Still don't think it's a big deal. Why don't you throw a few comment's equine fan's way? You know I can't.
Thanks for keeping us updated, Jay. I thought Perry Martin explained it very well as to the reasons they gave for declining the invitation to parade Chrome. As for racing at Los Al, do it next year when the pressure is off. This is a contentious HOY campaign. Chrome should get in another Grade 1 before tackling the BCC, and the Awesome Again would be a perfect launching race. Even if he doesn't win the Classic, if he comes up with a 4th Grade 1 and another stakes on his resume, he will be hard to overlook for end of year honors, and, hopefully, the HOY. Everyone seems to think they know what others should do with their horses. Everyone's a critic. Looking forward to seeing Chrome back in action.
The owners of Chrome could not have picked a better stable name for themselves. They demanded 50k to parade the horse at Del Mar which was refused. Martin said, "It costs money to ship him, it’s a day off from the horse’s training" That would have to be the most expensive van ride ever, and he would only miss the day in training if Del Mar wanted to parade him at 6 AM. Don't think this is about whats best for the horse. If they gave him the 50k, Martin would have asked when do you want him there. Martin also said they might skip the Los Al prep in favor of a win and in race unless Los Al pays Chrome's entry fees to the BC Classic. Again, perfect stable name. With Los Al writing a race just for Chrome with 200k added money they are paying his entry fees. Many said it was never about the money, it was always about the money and they're still stinging from losing millions when Chrome lost the Belmont which they thought should have been handed to them. Think anyone will complain about Chrome being fresh for the Classic?
Jon g "Yosemite Steve"? Says "Southpark Kenny" Careful Jon if your family realize how many dumb statements that comes from your mouth,they might trade you in for a pet monkey.
PA Derby perfect race for him.
Los Al is trying to get on the TB map, so it makes sense for them to write a race for CC to come. Then Los Al can say they have raced the 2yo champ and the KY derby/Preakness champ in the same year. Not a bad resume' for their inaugural year.
Wow seems like people either love the horse or hate him. I can't wait to see him race again. I rooting for him to win the BC. Weather he does or not that with have to wait to see. If he wins then I would be convinced he would have won the triple crown had he not gotten hurt at the gate considering he only lost by a small margin. Even if he comes in second to an older horse I will give him the benefit of the doubt. He he runs poorly then I will swallow my pride and say he's nice horse with a nice story and not as talented as I thought. Best of luck to his connections especially Art Sherman.
Real class demonstrated by the dumbasses that own this horse in asking for fifty K in appearance money at DelMar.
Isn't it cowardly to bypass the Awesome Again or Jockey Gold Cup and ride in the BCC. What says you Yosemite Steve? Or is it unfair CC won't have a race over the track or at the distance. It's pathetic they are writing a $200k race the week before the Awesome Aagain to accomadate these jerks. He will get trounced in the Classic