Trainer Art Sherman widened his smile and nodded at the question of the morning Sunday after California Chrome added Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) to his win in the Kentucky Derby : Have you been thinking about the Triple Crown?
“I sure have,” Sherman said. “I’m thinking what the journey is, one more shot. I’m going to have a lot of fresh shooters waiting for me in New York. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. He really doesn’t have a lot to prove. He’s been a super horse for us. He’s one of those horses that you’re going to have to outrun to beat him. Maybe they won’t be able to beat him. I’m looking forward to that race.”
California Chrome will try to become the 12th Triple Crown winner – the first since Affirmed swept the series in 1978 – in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 7. The colt will walk the shedrow Pimlico at 7 a.m. Monday and ship from the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico to Belmont Park at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Sherman said he thinks his colt can complete the sweep in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, which has stopped 11 horses that won the Derby and Preakness since Affirmed. A 12th Derby-Preakness winner, I’ll Have Another in 2012, was found to be injured the day before the Belmont Stakes and was scratched.
“I do,” he said. “I have a good feeling about it. I’m really confident going into this race. After watching him run yesterday with two weeks (between races) and showing the courage that he had, they better have their running shoes on. I don’t care how many fresh shooters they’ve got there; he’s the real McCoy.”
Sherman said California Chrome, a winner of six straight races, should be able to handle the Belmont distance.
“I really think a mile and a half is no problem at all for this horse,” he said. “I know when I was at Los Alamitos he galloped two miles every day and the second time around there he was in another gear. He looked better to me the second time around than the first.”
However, he said jockey Victor Espinoza will have to be careful in the Belmont.
“To last that long you’re going to have to take a hold of your horse the first part of it,” Sherman said. “He’s an easy horse to rate. If you want him to go in :48, he goes in :48. If you want him to go in :46, he’ll go in :46. I don’t think he needs to carry his race with him. Whatever the pace is, perfect, he can ride him that way.”
Much like he did after the Derby, Sherman, 77, said he will return to his California home Monday to tend to his stable based at Los Alamitos, while his son and assistant trainer, Alan, manages California Chrome for the next two weeks. Art Sherman said he expects to travel to New York about a week before the Belmont Stakes.
During a meeting with the media outside the stakes barn, Sherman said the horse came out of the race well, that he is in favor of lengthening the time between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes from five to nine weeks, and that he expects the colt’s owners, Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, to question New York’s rule against the use of nasal strips used to improve breathing by opening the nasal passages.
Sherman was surprised to learn that New York State does not allow nasal strips and said it might present a problem.
“Now that’s going to be interesting,” Sherman said. “This guy, Perry Martin, he might not run if they say you can’t run with a nasal strip. He’s very funny about things like that. The horse has been on a six-race winning streak with nasal strips. I don’t know why they would ban you from wearing one, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.”
By late morning, the New York State Gaming Commission issued a statement saying that it is up to the stewards to approve the use to nasal strips.
The statement from New York’s racing regulators:
“Neither the New York State Gaming Commission nor the Stewards at the New York Racing Association have received a request to use nasal strips in the June 7 Belmont Stakes.
“If a request to use nasal strips is made, the decision on whether to permit them or not will be fully evaluated and determined by the Stewards.
“This is in accordance with the Commission's Thoroughbred Rule 4033.8, which states: "Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race."
California Chrome’s chestnut coat shone in the morning sun a dozen or so hours after he posted a 1 1/2-length victory over Ride On Curlin in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Sherman said the horse seemed fine and was pulling Alan as they walked the shedrow.
Under Espinoza, California Chrome stalked the pace for six furlongs, moved to the front in the second turn and scooted away from the others at the top of the stretch.
“They took pretty good shots at him and he was in a longer drive than I’ve ever seen him,” Sherman said. “Victor said he had to ask him at the half-mile pole to stay in there when that horse (Social Inclusion) wheeled up alongside of him. He could see that he was trying to push him down there a little bit so he let him run a little earlier than he usually does. He kept up a half-mile run. Usually he just runs the last quarter of a mile. That impressed me a lot, coming back in two weeks. I said, ‘Man, this horse has got to have a big heart. He really does.”
The gap between the Preakness and the Belmont is three weeks and Sherman said it’s time that the Triple Crown schedule is adjusted.
“I think they should change that rule and make it to where it’s about a nine-week program,” he said. “I think you’d have a lot more shooters in that race (the Preakness). You’d have a lot more Derby horses that would try it. Now you only get two or three Derby horses that go.
And Sherman said he is favor of prohibiting fresh horses from entering the series after the Derby. It’s now quite common for horses that were beaten in the Derby to skip the Preakness and run in the Belmont.
“To me, if you’re going to the Triple Crown, go for the Triple Crown. Don’t pick your spots,” he said. “Let everybody be in the same situation and do it. The Triple Crown is the Triple Crown. If you’re good enough horse to do it, let’s go. Make it fair where you don’t have to pick and choose your spots. I think that shows what kind of horse you’ve got.”
RIDE ON CURLIN – Daniel Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin walked the shedrow for 40 minutes in the Preakness Stakes Barn with trainer Billy Gowan Sunday morning following his solid second-place performance behind California Chrome in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“He came out of the race unbelievably good,” said the 48-year-old Louisiana native, affectionately known as ‘Bronco Billy.’ “He ate everything in his feed tub; he’s bouncing around here and his legs are ice-cold. I like getting a little frostbite on my hands when I feel them legs. I couldn’t ask for it any better.”
Gowan said he will continue his Triple Crown tour at Belmont Park to try Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome one more time in the Belmont Stakes. He will attempt to accomplish the same feat his dam’s (Magical Ride) grandsire, Victory Gallop achieved in 1998 when he upset Real Quiet’s Triple Crown bid.
The son of Curlin will remain at Pimlico until Tuesday, when he is scheduled to board a van bound for Belmont Park, along with the Derby and Preakness winner. Under new rider Joel Rosario, Ride On Curlin came from last out of the 10-post and passed the entire field except California Chrome. The losing margin was a diminishing 1 ½ lengths.
“I thought he ran huge,” Gowan said. “He trained great all week and he ran just like I thought he would, if you want to know the truth. He gave him a great ride. At the eighth-pole I thought, heck, we might have a shot. But you have to give a lot of credit to (California Chrome). He doesn’t ever quit. Ours didn’t either; he just couldn’t get to him.”
The Preakness was the 11th career start for Ride On Curlin, a bargain basement buy at $25,000 for former Louisville furniture chain store dealer Daniel Dougherty. Still seeking his first stakes victory, Ride On Curlin is Dougherty’s only horse in training and the star of Gowan’s four-horse stable. Gowan picked out the colt in the 2012 Keeneland September Sale.
“I’ve been excited about that pedigree since the day I looked at the page myself,” Gowan said. It’s a lot of self satisfaction just knowing we could do this – just pick one out, train him, get him up here and make it all the way from the sale ring to here. It’s very gratifying.”
Gowan said it’s been “great fun” being part of this entire Triple Crown scenario.
“Hey, I’m a racing fan, too,” he said. “If I can’t win the Belmont, I dang sure want to see a Triple Crown.”
SOCIAL INCLUSION: Rontos Racing Stable Corp.’s Social Inclusion emerged from his third-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) in good order.
“He ate everything and he’s happy. He didn’t show that he was tired at all,” Rontos Racing’s Ron Sanchez said Sunday morning.
Social Inclusion is scheduled to remain at Pimlico until Friday before shipping to Belmont Park for a probable start in the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 7.
“The Belmont is in the picture, but we’ll see what’s good for the horse. We’ll look at all the options we have,” said Sanchez, who mentioned the Met Mile (G1) and the Woody Stephens (G2) on Belmont Stakes Day as options. “It’s early, but we’re going to New York, definitely.”
The 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile, who made only his fourth career start in the Preakness, was regarded as the likely pacesetter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. However, the Manny Azpurua-trained colt was forced to race off the pace after experiencing early trouble.
“We’re very happy that he ran with his heart,” Sanchez said. “He didn’t really have a clean trip. He had a little trouble in the starting gate, in his stall, and after that he didn’t break well. He bumped twice with California Chrome and on the first turn he got the worst of the bumping. The horse stalked the pace and made a good run, but California Chrome took off.”
Wide on the backstretch, Social Inclusion pulled alongside California Chrome leaving the backstretch and the pair swept around tiring pacesetter Pablo Del Monte on the turn before entering the stretch, where California Chrome kicked away to victory. Social Inclusion tired but held on to third money.
“We’ll try again. He’s getting mature. We’re very proud of him,” said Sanchez, who is planning a mini-vacation in Ocean City, Md., where he lived during the ‘90s. “We’ll see what happens in his next race. We’ll work on the gate problems and see what options we have and go forward.”
GENERAL A ROD: Trainer Mike Maker said that General A Rod came out of his fourth-place Preakness finish “in good shape” but couldn’t make a definitive statement about the colt’s chances of being only the third horse to run in all three Triple Crown events this year (California Chrome and Ride On Curlin are confirmed for the Belmont Stakes).
Jack Wolf, managing partner of Starlight Racing, said Sunday morning that his group will confer with representatives from co-owner Skychai Racing later this week and decide on the colt’s future.
“I would like to run him in the Belmont,” Wolf said. “I’m a racing fan first and an owner second, and I’d like to see a Triple Crown. I’d like to win the Belmont, too.”
The son of Roman Ruler was only a head from finishing third in the Preakness behind show finisher Social Inclusion. The Gulfstream Park Derby winner finished eight lengths behind Preakness winner California Chrome.
RING WEEKEND: Trainer Graham Motion was “quite happy” with the way St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Ring Weekend came out of his troubled fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness.
The Tampa Bay Derby winner (G2) bumped with Bayern after the start and had to be steadied going into the first turn.
“I think, perhaps, with a cleaner trip he could have been on the board,” said Motion, whose colt was vanned back to Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. Saturday evening. “I was very pleased with the way he ran, and I think he showed he belongs with those horses.”
No decision has been made concerning Ring Weekend’s next start.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Terry (Finley, managing partner of West Point Thoroughbreds). There’s always a possibility of doing the Belmont, but there are going to be a lot of options for him this summer that I think he’d be very competitive in,” Motion said. “So, we’ll have to get together and decide what makes the most sense.”
Motion was impressed with California Chrome’s performance.
“I think he handled everything so well. He’s a real pro. He’s a good enough horse that he doesn’t get himself in trouble. Perhaps, that’s the kind of horse we need to have a Triple Crown winner,” Motion said.
PABLO DEL MONTE – Trainer Wesley Ward said his homebred colt Pablo Del Monte was headed home to Kentucky Sunday, where he will be freshened for a summer campaign.
Under jockey Jeffrey Sanchez, Pablo Del Monte led the field through six furlongs in 1:11.06, before being overtaken and finishing sixth.
“I was very happy with his effort and proud of him,” Ward said. “I thought we would have run a little better, but he certainly wasn’t going to beat the winner regardless. What a phenomenal horse. I’m so excited to be involved with a possible Triple Crown hopeful. It’s a great story.”
Ward said he and his co-owners, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, talked about aiming their colt to middle distance type races of seven furlongs and a mile. He said that after Pablo Del Monte returns from some time off, he will be prepared for the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.
DYNAMIC IMPACT – John Oxley’s Dynamic Impact, who finished seventh in Saturday’s Preakness, was boarded on a van bound for Baltimore-Washington International Airport for an early Sunday morning flight to Louisville, Ky.
KID CRUZ – Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable’s Kid Cruz came out of his eighth-place Preakness finish in good shape and was boarded on a van headed home to Belmont Park shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday morning.
“He came out well and everything was good this morning,” said trainer Linda Rice, who remained behind for the sales in Timonium this week. “We will fight again.”
Whether that’s against California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks is still an uncertainty, Rice said.
“I’d say we’re about 50-50 right now,” said the first woman to ever win a Saratoga Race Course training title. No woman trainer has ever won a Triple Crown race.
Rice said she would meet with the colt’s owners sometime soon and make a final determination.
Kid Cruz has had only six career starts, three of them victories, but Rice is confident that the son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid has his best races in front of him.
“He’s still catching up,” she said. “He just had too much to do yesterday. We know he’s got talent.”
BAYERN – Kaleem Shah’s Bayern, who finished ninth in Saturday’s Preakness, boarded an early Sunday morning flight to Louisville, Ky.
RIA ANTONIA – Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia exited from her last-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness in good health.
“She’s in good shape,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “We’ll regroup and find another spot.”
Ria Antonia, the only filly in the 10-horse field, was boarded on a Tex Sutton flight to Louisville, Ky. early Sunday morning.