What is one of the things that tells us the Kentucky Derby 140 champ is destined for more greatness in the world of Thoroughbred racing? A real close up look told these eyes a happy heart is a sure sign more accolades await this already decorated runner.
Standing at the mouth of the Churchill Downs tunnel, all 19 starters passed within a few feet of this turf writer. As I fearfully watched each and every one of these massively muscular athletes being led to the saddling area, one thing in particular struck me…and thank goodness it wasn’t a those hoof to the head. There it was front and center, the magnificence of California Chrome.
Shining just like his namesake, this son of Lucky Pulpit exuded a happiness about who he was. Head held high and ears pricked, Chrome pranced through the throng of onlookers with the lightness of Fred Astaire. I even did a double take to make sure his white-socked feet were actually touching the ground. Taking it all in before this heavyweight bout,, a confident aura surrounded him and he clearly looked like the champ ready to knock out the opposition. California Chrome knew he was the man going into the race and couldn’t be happier about it.
For those who had doubts about this Art Sherman trained colt before the Kentucky Derby, the questions should have been answered. Of course, the 77-year old conditioner takes little credit for his vastly talented runner and his achievements. Counting his blessings, the veteran of the game thinks the demeanor of his superstar and a load of talent are what sets him apart.
“He’s just a professional,” says Sherman of California Chrome. “You don’t really teach him, you just manage him. He’s such a cool horse to be around because he really does everything right and has no bad habits. There is no wasted motion in anything he does and he acts like a normal horse, but he’s just got that little extra special when it comes to running.”
Chrome was clearly happy before the race and afterwards his performance left a lot of others smiling as well. His winning time of 2:03.66 was absolutely not spectacular, but his scintillating move at the top of the stretch left no doubt he was much the best. Now, as he heads toward the Preakness and the second jewel of the Triple Crown, happiness is one of the keys for Sherman and the Chrome team.
“We just want to keep him eating good and training good and with the right attitude,” says Sherman. “He has never run back this quick, so keeping him happy is very important. Chrome is a good feeling horse and I think he is going to run, I’m not really worried about that at all.”
So, going into the gates of the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome knew he was the best. About two minutes later everyone else knew it too. Will the same be said on May 17 at the Preakness?…The only thing that will shine brighter than Chrome might be the smile on Art Sherman’s face.