California Chrome Focused in Penultimate Move

By Alicia Wincze-Hughes
Alan Sherman still has a job to do. Most important, so too does the champion chestnut Sherman and his father have had in their care for over four seasons now.

So as much as Sherman gets asked about the emotions of the moment, how his barn will cope once they officially have to move on from being the home of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, he needs all involved to remain laser focused on the fact the son of Lucky Pulpit   isn’t done yet. There is still one last target, the most lucrative one yet, and a expected adversary who not be the least bit forgiving if his older rival brings anything but his best game to the table.

With California Chrome’s penultimate move before his expected career finale in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Jan. 28, Sherman made sure not to leave anything to chance. In the 6-year-old horse’s first serious breeze since arriving at Gulfstream Park last week, the top assistant and son to trainer Art Sherman put blinkers on his charge and got the focused runner he wanted to see Jan. 14, with California Chrome coasting through a five-furlong move in 1:00 3/5 under exercise rider Dihigi Gladney.

The last time California Chrome put in a timed move anywhere other than his base at Los Alamitos Race Course came July 16 when he fired a bullet five-furlong move at Del Mar in preparation for a sublime triumph in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (G1). When North America’s all-time earnings leader arrives at a new venue, he often senses something serious on the horizon—and Alan Sherman wanted to make sure that force was harnessed in the proper direction.

“He galloped out really good, he seemed to handle the track well,” Alan Sherman said of California Chrome’s move. “We put blinkers on him today because I didn’t want him to look around so much. I wanted him to focus on the task at hand because he likes to look around and gawk a little bit a new places. But we put the blinkers on him, he stayed focused, he was nice and relaxed, his ears were pricked. It was a perfect work.”

Sherman added California Chrome is slated to have the final work of his storied career on Jan. 21, hours before the winners of the 2016 Eclipse Awards are announced at Gulfstream that evening.

Following a campaign last season that saw him win seven of eight starts, including the $10 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), California Chrome still looms as the favorite to defeat his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) conqueror Arrogate for Horse of the Year honors. With Arrogate expected to be part of the Pegasus World Cup field, California Chrome’s final start will also serve as his last chance to right one of his few career blemishes before he retires to Taylor Made Farm.

Having been the main overseer for each of California Chrome’s 26 career starts, Alan Sherman doesn’t want to think about anything right now other than the strapping charge who keeps bowling him over with his indefatigability.

“I try not to think about too much that this is our last race and just approach it like this is any other race,” Sherman said. “I’ll probably get a little emotional after the race. But he just keeps getting better. To be honest, I don’t think a horse reaches their full maturity until they are 5 or 6 years old. Unfortunately we don’t get to see a lot of horses running at that age…it’s a hard decision to make.”

In other Pegasus news, trainer Doug O’Neill confirmed shareholder Reddam Racing will run grade 1 winner Ralis in the Pegasus, while stablemate Semper Fortis goes to the undercard. Ralis, a 4-year-old son of Square Eddie   who took the Hopeful Stakes (G1) as a 2-year-old, has not seen the winner’s circle since then. He ran ninth in the Nov. 5 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1T) last out.

Also on the Gulfstream worktab, James McIngvale’s Eragon, the multiple group 1 winner from Argentina who is slated to make his first U.S. start in the Pegasus World Cup, took to the track just ahead of California Chrome for his first local breeze. The 6-year-old was credited by the clockers with a four-furlong move in :49 4/5 seconds, although trainer Laura Wohlers viewed the morning exercise as “an easy seven-eighths.”

“He started little slow in the first part but picked it up from the quarter-pole to the wire with a nice kick,” jockey Edgar Prado said. “He galloped out good and came home good.”

Eragon spent 2 1/2 weeks in quarantine in Miami before arriving at Gulfstream Jan. 5.

“I thought he worked fine. He hadn’t worked in a long time—since Dec. 17 in Argentina. He worked an easy seven-eighths. Today was the fastest he’s gone in a month—since being stuck in quarantine,” Wohlers said. “I’m happy with it and he seems to be cooling out good. He was blowing a little bit, but he caught his breath back pretty quick.”