Submitted by John Conte on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 12:00 AM
Chrome report: Espinoza will travel to breeze California Chrome
CYPRESS, Calif. – Jockey Victor Espinoza is not letting California Chrome far from his sight in the buildup to a potential sweep of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Espinoza is scheduled to travel from California to New York to work the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner at Belmont Park on May 31, trainer Art Sherman said Wednesday. The May 31 workout is the only scheduled workout for California Chrome between the Preakness Stakes last Saturday and the Belmont.
“He doesn’t want anyone else on the horse,” Sherman said of Espinoza at this barn at Los Alamitos.
Espinoza has been the regular race rider, and frequent workout rider, for California Chrome since December. During that time, California Chrome is unbeaten in six starts, all stakes.
Sherman said California Chrome will have a two-mile daily gallop as the Belmont Stakes nears.
“It gives him a work back there,” Sherman said. “That’s all he needs. I will get the two miles into him every day. That will get him ready. I feel good about Victor coming out. We’ll be in good shape.”
California Chrome was shipped from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore to New York in a four-hour van ride Tuesday. Ride On Curlin, second in the Preakness, was on the same van.
On Wednesday, California Chrome jogged 1 1/2 miles clockwise on the main track at Belmont Park under exercise rider Willie Delgado. California Chrome started a bit sluggishly but had a more fluid stride for most of the exercise.
“He does that all the time,” Sherman said. “They said he went great and ate up everything.”
Sherman spent Wednesday morning at his Southern California base at Los Alamitos, overseeing the training of the other 17 horses in his stable. Sherman said he plans to stay in Southern California until the start of Belmont Stakes week.
Alan Sherman, the trainer’s son, is with California Chrome at Belmont Park.
Sherman said California Chrome’s enthusiasm has shown no signs of wavering despite the horse having expended so much energy in winning the Kentucky Derby on May 3 and the Preakness Stakes last weekend.
“He dragged Alan around there the next morning, walking,” Sherman said, recalling Sunday morning at Pimilco. “I couldn’t believe his energy level. He amazes me. I’ve been around a lot of horses, and he holds his weight.”
Aside from Ride On Curlin, California Chrome’s challengers in the Belmont Stakes over 1 1/2 miles are expected to include Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, and Samraat, who were second, fourth, and fifth in Kentucky Derby. Intense Holiday, 12th in the Kentucky Derby, is another probable starter.
Two other well-regarded candidates are Tonalist and Commissioner, the first two finishers of the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 10.
But the focus will be on California Chrome and his attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Owned by breeder Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, California Chrome has won 8 of 12 starts and $3,452,650.
With the success has come added attention for Sherman.
“It’s new for me,” Sherman said. “Everyone recognizes me in the airport, signing autographs. It’s kind of fun.”
A quiet Wednesday morning at Los Alamitos was a change for Sherman compared to last week or the excitement surrounding the Triple Crown bid in two weeks. Wednesday night was to be a different matter. Sherman was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Astros-Angels game in nearby Anaheim.
The 77-year-old trainer was hoping to get the ball over the plate.
“Oh, no, I’m trouble,” he said. “I haven’t thrown a baseball in so many years.”
– additional reporting by Michael Vecse.