California Chrome Strong in Los Al Drill

By Jeremy Balan
Even after his first serious workout in just more than eight months, California Chrome wanted more.

It’s become somewhat of a habit for the 2014 Horse of the Year. After he hits the wire, he doesn’t want to pull up, and it was business as usual Nov. 21, when he covered three furlongs in :37 3/5 at Los Alamitos Race Course.

“Boy, he’s galloping out strong,” assistant trainer Alan Sherman said as he watched the 4-year-old Lucky Pulpit colt gallop beyond the wire, out to four furlongs in :50 1/5, which will be the official time on his worktab. “He doesn’t want to stop. Look at him. Easy there, big boy.”

According to Los Alamitos clocker Russ Hudak, last year’s dual classic winner started “off a bit slow” under regular exercise rider Dihigi Gladney, and ran the first eighth of the drill in :14, but quickened in the stretch to run the final quarter to the wire in :23 3/5. He worked under the watchful gaze of owners Perry Martin and Frank Taylor, as well as trainer Art Sherman.

“He’s muscling up. He’s got a lot of air power,” the elder Sherman said. “I watch him now, when he gallops out, you think he might be getting a little tired, but he gets stronger when he gallops out, so that’s a good sign. It shows he wants to do more and I like that a lot.

“He’s done that ever since I’ve had him. Every time I work him, when he goes past the wire, he cuts. It’s the darndest thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to pull him up, because I think he goes faster when you try to get a good hold of him.”

Sherman also said California Chrome is “right on schedule” for the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 9 at Santa Anita Park, which would be his first start since running second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 28. Potential inclement weather in Southern California, which is forecasted this winter in an El Niño year, could cause him to shift training plans slightly, but for now the colt continues to be scheduled for a breeze every Saturday leading into the San Pasqual.

“We can always go a day after or early if we know a rainstorm is coming in,” Sherman said. “Once he’s fit and ready, it won’t make any difference.”

Both of the Art and Alan Sherman said they’re planning on having jockey Victor Espinoza up for a workout in the coming weeks. The Saturday workout was California Chrome’s third since returning to California in October. The first two—two furlongs in :26 3/5 Nov. 7 and three furlongs in :39 3/5 Nov. 14—were intentionally easy.

“You’ll watch now, progressively, each work will be a little better and better,” the elder Sherman said. “Then, when you see Victor on him, you’ll know we’re getting serious.”