A blistering hot day at the races in Los Alamitos saw a win for Team Sherman in the seventh race. Even in the shade and comfort of Art's table at Vessels, the heat was extreme. After driving up for morning workouts yesterday, having my friend and trainer, Emily Ruocco, take the wheel was so nice. As preparations continue for the team's trip to Philadelphia, Art was interviewed again by HRTV. Fortunately, he was able to convince them that walking out to the barn to sit alongside California Chrome was not advisable, and the interview was conducted from the air conditioned comfort of the restaurant. The coming week will see more and more media attention, for which I am bracing and excited to do my best for my boss.
Emily and I could not avoid the heat as we were intent to make the trek to the barn to meet Bishop, a retired pony horse of Art and Alan's in need of a good home. It felt every bit of 100' as we slowly made our way to barn 21, after being cleared through tightened security by Art and the executives at the track. Rounding the corner of the Sherman barn, the newly placed lawn jockey, freshly painted in Sherman Racing silks, is the first thing you see. A line of large fans is pointed at the stalls to help cool the horses inside, and Raul and his family are ever present, doing the work they have done for over 15 years to keep the equine athletes that make up this stable as comfortable as possible. My brief and pleasant exchange with Raul centers on our mutual delight at the average high temperatures at Parx Racing of 72' and the possibility of rain on Tuesday after we arrive. His easy smile and casual chuckle reveal a quiet and humble man who relaxes in the simple joys of his life.
California Chrome - the "big horse", as he is known at Los Al - is asleep on his feet in his stall with a large fan stirring the air around him to create a breeze. I'm sure that he will react positively to the cooler temperatures we will encounter in less than 48 hours, and that his final work leading up to the Pennsylvania Derby on Saturday will be easier in the anticipated 50-60' mornings on the East coast. Next to Chrome in the detention stall, waiting to be saddled for the seventh race, Sacred Ovation showed his spunk, indicating that he knew it was a race day for him and that he was ready, despite the heat. Further down the line of stalls, Teresa the goat appeared to have put herself in "time out" standing still with her horns pressed against the cinder block wall as if to say, "it's just too hot!". At our urging she briefly played with her stable mate, a pretty bay who tugged on her horns. At the end of the Sherman barn, a quick call of Bishop's name brought his head out of the stall to say hello to Emily and me. He's such a sweet pony and he loves the attention, and the carrots.
After a short visit, we walked back up the line of stalls, stopping briefly to see if Chrome was up for a quick photo with Emily. He stayed back in his stall, lifting his head only briefly to see who was blocking the breeze coming from his fan outside his stall. A final stroke of Sacred Ovation's forehead and word of encouragement for his upcoming race, and Emily and I started the hot stroll back to the clubhouse. As we neared the track the horses in the fourth race were coming out of the back stretch, rounding the final turn to head home. As I took out my camera to capture this interesting perspective, Emily pointed to the riderless horse on the outside of the pack and we took cover behind the starting gate parked outside the rail, in case he did not make the turn and decided to jump the barrier. Luckily, he did not leave the track and his brush with the rail seemed to be minor, although there was a little blood on his hoof as he was safely collected and walked back to his barn. Later, Emily would apologize repeatedly for keeping me from getting that shot, at which point I reminded her what she and Art and everyone I work with at the track has taught me - safety first!
Finally, the paddock walk for the seventh race commenced and the horses were out on the track for a 6 furlong sprint. Sacred Ovation had the early lead out of the gate and around the turn, but was challenged as they came into the home stretch - the longest in the US at a full quarter mile since the Los Alamitos track was renovated. A few strides neck and neck with his challenger and Sacred Ovation dug deep to rally back and open up a two-trhee stride advantage that brought him across the wire in first place. Emily and I trailed behind Art as he quickly made his way, with his joyful owners, to the Winner's Circle, as Alan escorted Tyler Baze aboard his winning horse through the paddock. I rarely stand for photos, but in this case I was happy to tuck my camera bag behind me and smile with the happy group that included Willie and Anna from Team Sherman. Another win to his credit and Art was interviewed once more by HRTV, this time just outside the paddock. We waited for the interview to wrap up before giving a quick hug and kiss to my friend, with his final words being instructions to not mess up on picking him up at the airport in Philly when he arrives on Thursday from the yearling sale at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. Nice.