By Jeremy Balan
When trainer Art Sherman puts blinkers on California Chrome it sends a clear signal to the chestnut champion—it’s time to get serious.
The 2014 Horse of the Year responded Oct. 22 at his Los Alamitos Race Course base. Blinkers on—mission accomplished.
California Chrome started slow early in his five-furlong drill under regular exercise rider Dihigi Gladney, but kicked into another gear in the long Los Alamitos stretch and hit the wire in 1:00 2/5, although both Sherman and assistant trainer Alan Sherman both had the work a bit faster at :59 4/5.
According to Los Alamitos clocker Russ Hudak, the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) favorite covered the first quarter in :25 1/5, ran a half-mile in :48 3/5, and galloped out to six furlongs in 1:13 flat. The Shermans timed his final furlong to the wire in :11 flat.
“That was some last eighth of a mile—he flew the last eighth,” Art Sherman said. “It’s the last quarter of a mile—that’s where the money is made. It gives you that (indication) that he’s getting closer. He’ll go three-quarters next Saturday, and probably go in 1:13 and I’ll probably put the blinkers on him again.”
The work was California Chrome’s second since his standout victory in the TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I) and his second to last before the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the target the Shermans have been looking toward all year.
“As it gets closer, you get kinda on the bit,” Art Sherman said. “Blinkers on, big move.”
The 79-year-old conditioner has learned to appreciate every moment with his big horse, in what could be the final stages of his career. The $12 million Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park in January is the only definitive target beyond the Breeders’ Cup for California Chrome, but each Saturday workout session feels like a small celebration with the loyal group of fans that appears in the darkness every week at Los Alamitos’ trackside grill, Schwanie’s At The Gap.
“At 5:30 (a.m.), every week,” Art Sherman said, presiding over his congregation from the elevated perch on the grill’s outdoor patio. “It’s somethin’, ain’t it?
“In this game, you dream about a horse like this your whole life and when it happens you have to pinch yourself to know it’s really happening.”