By Jeremy Balan
As most of the barns at Los Alamitos Race Course only started to rustle with activity during the early morning Oct. 15, California Chrome stood like a sentinel at the top of the longest stretch run in North America.
Ears pricked and unmoving, the chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit patiently waited for the required outrider to make its way onto the track so he could go about his business for his first timed workout in preparation for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).
“He’ll stand there all morning if you let him,” trainer Art Sherman said, looking through his binoculars from his elevated perch at Los Al’s trackside grill, Schwanie’s at the Gap.
As the outrider emerged from the darkness and ambled toward the track, the 2014 Horse of the Year got his cue from exercise rider Dihigi Gladney and backtracked into the backstretch, before stopping on a dime again to take in his surroundings.
As he made his way to the backstretch a second time, though, after warming up through the stretch and the far turn, he showed his trademark eagerness to run.
California Chrome lowered his head and began pulling on Gladney, inspiring Sherman to let out “Easy big fella; easy big fella.”
Right before the seven-time grade I winner broke off for his drill, an onlooker asked assistant trainer Alan Sherman how far he would go.
“He’s going a half,” Alan Sherman said. “It’s a good thing, because Dihigi can’t hold him any longer.”
Only a shadow in the early morning darkness entering the far turn, California Chrome emerged into the stretch under the Los Alamitos lights and powered to the wire. The Shermans timed him in :47 1/5 for a half-mile, but Los Alamitos clocker Russ Hudak gave him an official time of :48 flat, with a gallop out to five furlongs in 1:01. His first quarter-mile went in :24 4/5 and he covered three furlongs in :36 3/5. His final furlong in :11 2/5 is what impressed Alan Sherman the most.
“If we just keep him a couple more weeks like he is, we’ll be ready for action,” the elder Sherman said of the drill, California Chrome’s first since his geared-down rout in the Oct. 1 Awesome Again (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park. “We just wanted something light—keep him fresh. His next work will be five-eighths with a gallop out to three-quarters. He’s coming into (the Classic) off five weeks of rest. If he isn’t fit now, he’ll never be fit.”
Art Sherman said California Chrome “is back at his fighting weight” and didn’t lose any flesh coming out of the Awesome Again. After his Pacific Classic (gr. I) victory at Del Mar, the trainer said he lost “about eight or nine pounds, but it didn’t take him long to put it back on.”
California Chrome will get two more works at Los Alamitos before shipping to Santa Anita for the Classic.