Submitted by John Conte on Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM
Few to face California Chrome again in Preakness
A total of 21 horses were entered in the Kentucky Derby, 19 ran, and of the 18 who chased home California Chrome on Saturday at Churchill Downs, it appears only a few will try him again in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on May 17 at Pimlico.
As of Monday, there were more newcomers to the Triple Crown trail for the Preakness than there were Derby alumni. In addition to California Chrome, the only others coming out of the Derby still under consideration to run back in the Preakness were Danza (who was third) and Ride On Curlin (seventh), with only Ride On Curlin a certainty.
Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds said runner-up Commanding Curve would await the Belmont.
Others under consideration for the Preakness are Bayern, Dynamic Impact, Kid Cruz, Pablo Del Monte, Ring Weekend, and Social Inclusion.
Untapable, the filly who won the Kentucky Oaks, will not compete. Trainer Steve Asmussen said it is “not in her best interest to run back in two weeks.”
California Chrome ran the 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.66 and got a Beyer Speed Figure of 97, which would be the lowest winning figure in the Derby since Beyer first compiled them in 1989. But the number may end up better than that, with the difficulty of making a precise figure made challenging by the unusually long delay between the Turf Classic and the Derby. More than an hour passed between those races, and more than two hours passed between the Derby and the prior dirt race. The track was not watered after the walkover, so the surface likely was far drier for the Derby than any other main-track race on Saturday.
If that 97 figure holds, it would mean that eight of the first nine finishers all regressed off their prior race, with only runner-up Commanding Curve improving.
Regardless of the speed figure, California Chrome recorded his fifth straight victory, all since jockey Victor Espinoza took over as his rider. California Chrome made Art Sherman, at age 77, the oldest trainer to win the Derby.
“It’s pretty cool,” Sherman said. “You wake up in the morning and go, ‘I just won the Kentucky Derby.’ It’s a dream come true for me.”
California Chrome will remain at Churchill Downs until May 12, when he is scheduled to fly to Pimlico. For Derby Week, he occupied a stall in the barn of trainer Tom Proctor, who is a good friend of Sherman’s, and he will stay in Proctor’s barn until he heads to Pimlico.
Sherman said California Chrome would not work between races. He trained the colt lightly between the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby, believing it was the best way to keep him fresh for the task ahead. He believes the same approach is needed for the Preakness.
“I don’t have to do too much, just keep him happy and fresh,” Sherman said. “He just ran a mile and a quarter, and his next race is going to be a mile and three-sixteenths.”
Sherman said California Chrome would get a few days off before returning to the track for a jog on Wednesday. He would then have daily gallops from Thursday through the Preakness.
Sherman’s son and assistant trainer Alan is staying with California Chrome at Churchill Downs while Sherman returns to California to oversee his stable at Los Alamitos this week.
“Both kids have my back,” he said, referring to both Alan, who is based in Southern California, and another son, Steve, who oversees the Sherman barn in Northern California.
Sherman, who flew to California on Monday, said he would not rejoin California Chrome until the colt travels to Pimlico next week.
Just as he was unconcerned about California Chrome adapting to Churchill Downs, Sherman is similarly at ease regarding Pimlico.
“A good horse will run on anything,” he said. “He’s got the right demeanor. He’s not a nervous-type of horse who backs off his feed. He does everything right.”
Danza, trained by Todd Pletcher, is still possible for the Preakness, according to Aron Wellman, who heads the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners syndicate which owns Danza.
“Todd and I agreed to let the dust settle for right now,” Wellman said. “He’s had two very, very hard races in three weeks and the Derby was a very physical race. I don’t think we’re ruling anything out at this point.”
Danza, winner of the Arkansas Derby three weeks ago, was clobbered by Pletcher-trained Vinceremos first time through the lane. Wellman said the two-week turnaround for the Preakness wasn’t as a big a concern as the prospect of running three times in five weeks.
Billy Gowan, the trainer of Ride On Curlin, said the Preakness is a go, and that Joel Rosario would replace Calvin Borel in the saddle.
“Hopefully, he’ll listen to me,” Gowan said of Rosario. “Most of them don’t want to listen to you, they know best. If he listens to what I tell him, we’ll win the Preakness.”
Gowan said he told Borel to break good and get some position. “He was six lengths off the last horse in a half in 48,” Gowan said. “I wanted to throw up when they came by me the first time. I didn’t tell him to take a left-hand turn coming out of there.”
Gowan said Ride On Curlin likely would travel on the same flight that brings California Chrome to Baltimore.
Trainer Bob Baffert said that Chitu (ninth) would return to California. Baffert said that Hoppertunity, scratched from the Derby, needed further tests to determine what is nagging him, but is definitely out of the Preakness.
Baffert said that Bayern, disqualified from a win in the Derby Trial last time out, was his lone contender for the Preakness. He sizzled five furlongs in 58.20 at Churchill Downs on Monday.