When I rolled in, a little after 5:30 a.m. PT, trainer Art Sherman was positioned in one of his favorite spots - on the deck outside the kitchen that overlooks the track. It’s a perfect spot to clock his horses as they work out, and work had already begun.
While the light was still low, “the big horse” galloped under exercise rider Willie Delgado with an easy, graceful stride.
Getting decent photos in this pre-dawn light is difficult, but it’s still one of my favorite times of day, especially at this track. Los Al is a beautiful park, and being surrounded by mountains, the hues that take over the sky as the sun comes up are awe-inspiring.
The team clipped through their morning work, waving to us as they backtracked past our spot on the deck, always smiling and asking the big boss how things looked from his angle. Everyone was in good spirits, and there was plenty of talk of the meet opening at Santa Anita and the upcoming races this weekend.
Of note was work from exercise rider Anna Wells on Bernier, a filly owned by Bob and Becky Brockway, a lovely couple I was pleased to meet several weeks ago. Today was Bernier’s first time breaking from the starting gate and “momma” Becky was nervous. With Becky’s mother and doting husband by her side, the filly did well, though she did exhaust herself in the process. Overall, the work was excellent, and Bob let Bernier know how proud he was of her when he greeted her back at the barn. (Incidentally, today was Bob’s birthday, and we sang a whispered, stealth version of “Happy Birthday” to him before he blew out the candle perched on his rye toast.)
After my breakfast cheeseburger (the track kitchen at Los Al is exceptional!), it was my pleasure to get back to the barn to visit Teresa the Goat, her chicken and the other horses training with Sherman Racing.
Oh, and then there’s Chrome. The nicker of recognition he gave as I approached his stall made me smile, though it’s nothing like the welcome he issues to groom Raul Rodriguez and assistant trainer Alan Sherman, but I’ll take it!
He looked relaxed and happy and fit, munching on his breakfast when he wasn’t trying to see if he could reach the sleeve of my sweatshirt when my attention was focused elsewhere.
What strikes me when I have time on the backside is all the work that is being done. Cleaning tack, mucking stalls, hot walking, giving baths and treatments after horses work. There is no idle time or wasted motion, and I almost feel bad interrupting the morning’s tasks to ask for the autographs that fans have requested from Art and Chrome. (You try getting a colt to give you a clean hoof print!)
Again this morning, the intelligence of this horse and the connection to his team was apparent. Watching him while his people go about their work is interesting, and I noticed that he does not care for the fact that some folks in his barn smoke. He doesn’t like cigarette smoke and he’s not shy about letting people know by striking, yawning and coughing out loud. He made quite a scene!
As Raul rounded the corner, Chrome called out to let him know that breakfast was finished and he was ready for his cookies. Everyone who follows California Chrome knows that he loves Mrs. Pastures Cookies, and Raul is kind of a soft touch. One cookie was followed by two or three more, with a happy 3-year-old resting comfortably as the morning drew to a close
Alan and Art are headed to Santa Anita where they have a horse, Scared Ovation, in the second race. I head home, but hope to join them tomorrow or Sunday as racing gets underway. All eyes are on the Breeders Cup Classic, and with five weeks to prepare, I’m looking forward to every minute.