Updated on 05/16/2014 9:35AM

Special shoes keep California Chrome's feet comfy

Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome was having trouble with his heels until a blacksmith suggested using glue-on shoes affixed with nails.

CYPRESS, Calif. -- With white hooves on all four feet, Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome always has needed a little extra attention to hoof care, and his trainer, Art Sherman, said blacksmith Judd Fisher came up with a unique solution. California Chrome races in glue-on shoes, but the shoes are not glued on, they are affixed with nails.

The shoe, not the glue, is the reason, Sherman said. The shoes that California Chrome wears “help so he doesn’t go back on his heels,” Sherman said.

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“All horses with four white feet are prone to needing more care because of the lack of pigmentation. The hoofs can be shellier,” Sherman said this weekend at Los Alamitos, where he is overseeing his local stable before heading to Pimlico this week for the Preakness Stakes. “It takes more effort to keep them in shape.

“We’re always working on his feet. Horses with white hooves, they have a tendency to have problems if you don’t keep up with them.”

Sherman said that California Chrome was having trouble with his heels last year at age 2. According to Sherman, Fisher liked the way the padding in the glue-on shoes he prefers raised the heels of California Chrome’s hooves. So Fisher buys glue-on shoes, and then drills holes in the shoes so they can be affixed with nails.

“We could see he needed a little help, nothing major,” Sherman said. “You have to trust your blacksmith. It was Judd’s idea. You’ve got to let the experts do it. If you have a gut feeling it might be the right situation, you have to go for it.”

Sherman said Fisher shoes all the horses in his barn. “He’s a young, strong kid,” Sherman said.

Fisher was at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. “He didn’t want to miss it,” Sherman said. “He’d never been.”

California Chrome was freshly shod prior to the Derby. Since he is shod every 30 days, Sherman said, he will not need fresh plates for the Preakness.

It’s a labor-intensive process, but there’s no denying the results so far. Sherman said California Chrome started being shod in this fashion after he won the King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood Park on Dec. 22. That was the start of what is now a five-race win streak, so he has worn the new shoes for four races, including the Derby.

“This is new for me. But it must’ve worked. You can’t say I’m old-fashioned about everything,” Sherman said, laughing.

A previous version of this article misstated the name of California Chrome's blacksmith. It is Judd Fisher, not Judd Smith.