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To work or not to work - that is the question
BALTIMORE – Late Monday afternoon, when California Chrome had arrived at Pimlico after shipping from Churchill Downs, assistant trainer Alan Sherman said the colt’s connections had not yet decided whether California Chrome would jog or gallop during his first training session in Baltimore.
Out on the racetrack Tuesday morning, California Chrome had an easy jog, and the decision to take a less-demanding path cleaved to the general approach trainer Art Sherman and his team are employing with the Derby winner.
California Chrome will not have a timed workout between the Derby and the Preakness, and Alan Sherman said a work was not ever strongly considered. It’s not an obvious call. There’s no blueprint outlining the moves to make after the Derby and before the Preakness. Young horses in North America rarely run 1 1/4 miles. They seldom race with only a two-week break between starts. Some thrive on work; others need rest. The goal is to strike a balance between keeping a horse fit and sharp without wearing him out. The approach depends on the trainer; it depends on the horse.
“Oh yeah – we want to keep this horse fresh,” Alan Sherman said Tuesday morning. “I’m not worried about fitness at all, and running back in two weeks, this horse is going to be sharp.”
The Sherman outfit is not a heavy workout barn anyway. Sherman said horses in the stable usually work 12 to 14 days after they race. Adding a post-Derby, pre-Preakness workout would change California Chrome’s routine.
Of the three Derby horses running at Pimlico, only Ride On Curlin will work between the two races. Trainer Billy Gowan plans to let Ride On Curlin breeze an easy half-mile Wednesday.
“Hopefully he’ll go in about 52 [seconds],” Gowan said. “If that takes something out of him, we probably shouldn’t be here anyway. I just want him to get a feel for the track. Plus, it just gives him something to do. If he doesn’t get to do anything, he’ll be up in the air.”
General a Rod will not do any more than gallop between the Derby and Preakness, despite a troubled Derby trip that did not permit the colt to really extend himself.
“Usually I don’t work for two weeks after a race anyway,” trainer Mike Maker said. “If he were a lazy horse, I might do things differently.”
Maker was an assistant for trainer Wayne Lukas during Lukas’s Triple Crown heyday, and he said Lukas nearly always worked Derby horses intended for the Preakness the Monday or Tuesday before the race. Lukas gave Oxbow a half-mile workout nine day before he won the 2013 Preakness, and Itsmyluckyday, trained by Eddie Plesa, and Mylute (Tom Amoss) also worked between Triple Crown starts and ran well here last year. Goldencents had no works before finishing fifth in the 2013 Preakness, but his trainer, Doug O’Neill, used the same no-work strategy when Derby winner I’ll Have Another won the 2012 Preakness. The Shug McGaughey-trained Orb also worked after the Derby last year and ran below his Churchill form at Pimlico.
Most recent Derby winners have worked before the Preakness, some as far as five furlongs, but there is no established pattern among the good and the bad performances, no rule book to follow. A trainer just has to feel his way through the series, especially an outfit like Sherman’s, which is new to the Triple Crown game.
“You try to have a plan,” Alan Sherman said. “You think, ‘Okay, if he were to win the Derby, then what?’ or, ‘If he were to win the Preakness, then what?’ But you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself.”
California Chrome takes it easy
All five Preakness starters on the grounds went to the track Tuesday, including Social Inclusion, who had a fast workout Monday, and California Chrome, who got his first feel for the Pimlico surface.
California Chrome, going out at about 6:45 a.m., jogged one circuit around the local oval under exercise rider Willie Delgado, who said the colt wanted to do more. California Chrome is scheduled to gallop Wednesday morning, and trainer Art Sherman, who was flying from California on Tuesday, will be here to see him.
General a Rod galloped 1 1/8 miles during his first tour of the track.
“You saw the way he went by,” trainer Mike Maker said when asked his opinion of the gallop.
California Chrome, Kid Cruz, and General a Rod all trained before 7 a.m., with Kid Cruz – the only Preakness starter with a race at Pimlico – galloping 1 1/2 miles in his first morning here this week.
After the renovation break, at about 8:30, Ride On Curlin galloped about 1 1/8 miles at a clip faster than trainer Billy Gowan preferred. Ride On Curlin’s regular exercise rider, Bryan Beccia, told Gowan he had slowed Ride On Curlin down as much as he could.
A few minutes later, Social Inclusion jogged once around the track clockwise one day after his Monday work, in which he galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.60.
“He came out of the work good,” said his smiling trainer, Manny Azpurua. “I’m very happy with him.”
Social Inclusion jogs Wednesday and then gallops each morning before the Preakness.
In Kentucky on Tuesday, Dynamic Impact galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill, while Bayern and Ria Antonia walked the day after working. Those horses as well as Keeneland-based Pablo Del Monte fly here Wednesday.
At the Fair Hill training center, Ring Weekend galloped 1 5/8 miles Tuesday morning. He ships here by van on Thursday.
◗ There’s a moderate chance of showers here Wednesday and Thursday, and a 90 percent chance of rain for Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan card, but the Preakness Day forecast is looking ideal, with sunny skies and a high temperature in the low 70s.
I think that Chrome is the best horse in the race..He has the running style to win this just like the Santa Anita Derby and there won't be a 20 horse field so some of the others have a chance but I picked this horse in january and I'm sticking with him..I would have liked to see Untappable in this race.
Reminds of Charlie Whittingham, running in all the preps & working Cougar II for SA hdcp early '70's.. Got beat run 2nd. The next year , Chas " I won't run Cougar in any preps this year, just work him for 3 months, can't do much worse than last year" Win it !
As a retired lifer on the backstretch since the early 50's I'm quite shocked that so few tend to realize that each horse is an individual and it's of zero value to try and copy some other trainer's approach thru big races. The true key to success is taking heed to the message your particular horse is sending out, and taking advantage of the details. In California Chrome's instance, the 'Sherman Gang' has each and every detail calculated finer than the Dalton Gang did as that train approached. Couldn't be prouder here of my life long pals. I'm on cloud nine as I watch the state of happiness CC is in. I almost feel sorry for any horse that thinks he's goin' on bye CC late in the race, cos when he gets close enough CC will unleash a wall of confidence that he's been building up inside with each of his superior wins all year! Couldn't happen to a greater, more deserving bunch than the Sherman Gang, Momma Faye included. Do know I'm feelin' the thrill, and thank's for providing it. What the real icing on the cake is for me, is seeing what a happy horse CC is through all this. It actually is the most important factor to me, and the biggest feather in all of your hats.
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if you are not comfortable with only having two weeks between races. save your horse for the los al derby (swaps), then the pacific classic and classic. eight weeks between races and a cash bonus.
The Payout may be Good if you Throw out SI, ROC, and use all the Rest. Bayern is not a a Pig that Quits.. SI quits and ROC Looks like He's Coming well is a Big Field he was Actually just passing tired horses
Sherman's system is working just fine. The others might want to regroup and do something different, or they realize they are all running for 2'nd. anyway. The payouts will be much less than in the Derby. A good chance you would lose money in an exacta with CC over all. May play a pick 4 or pick 5. Who has the best shot at upsetting the apple cart?