It was crowded on I-805 North/I-5 North this morning as I made my way to Del Mar, well before 5 a.m. PT. Am I the only one who asks herself where all these people are going at 4:45 a.m.?
And it was crowded at the barn when I arrived, as well.
This morning I left my signature straw hat in the car and pulled my auburn hair back in a loose ponytail at the base of my neck. Upon arriving at the barn, trainer Art Sherman remarked that I looked … weird. When I said that I had left my hat behind, he got incredibly animated and asked me to go to retrieve it immediately. I had left it behind because he tells me all the time that it bothers him. Yesterday, he was bothered by everything, and I thought that today I could remove something that would be an irritant.
As it turns out, horsemen can be incredibly superstitious. I was ordered to go back for my hat, because you don’t make big changes so close to a big race. I was happy to oblige.
Always a welcome sight, Frank Taylor, from Taylor Made Farms, was standing outside the stall of prized stallion California Chrome, with some of the syndicated owners of the chestnut colt.
After saying hello to Frank, I was introduced to lots of lovely people, whose names I won’t be able to recall.
As the clock approached 5:30 a.m., Art called out to his son and assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, that we would see them in the paddock. With that, I walked with Art toward the frontside of Del Mar. Along the way, as we approached the tunnel that leads from the main track to the paddock, I saw my friend, Penelope Miller, senior manager of digital media for America’s Best Racing, in the clubhouse boxes.
Penelope caught up with us as we made our way through the tunnel and emerged into the paddock, just as exercise rider Dihigi Gladney arrived on California Chrome. Dihigi was without an escort pony, and called out to Art that Chrome had been enthralled with top mare, Beholder, who was exiting her stable as they passed by.
As luck would have it, Beholder and her trainer, Richard Mandella, joined us in the paddock for what would be a generally stressful couple of minutes for this writer/photographer. (I kept saying to myself, “No circus stunts!”) Art remained calm beside me. I hate to think how he would have reacted if Chrome had gone up on his hind legs …
With an uneventful pass through the paddock, Dihigi guided Chrome through the tunnel and onto the main track, where they galloped a couple of laps before walking back to the barn. While Chrome had his daily bath, jockey Victor Espinoza showed up and began live streaming his experience through Facebook. (Penelope did this, too. Crazy concept.)
Then, it was time to walk in the yard to cool out the hot 5-year old racehorse. This proved to be more challenging than expected for the champion. Chrome was feeling good this morning, and his main goal seemed to be to garner media attention with each turn.
As he has done in the past, California Chrome paused to take in the sights around him on this barn-side morning. With each pass of the exercise yard, he paused and required hot-walker, Florentina Saldivar, to take time to encourage him to move along. Onlookers said that they thought he was looking at me, but as I generally position myself close to either Art or Alan Sherman, I felt certain that was what he was focused on.
Look at the photos, there are shots from each lap around the yard, and I can tell you personally that this star colt had a plan that involved getting Alan to walk him so that he could roll for the first time since being back at Del Mar this week.
Tomorrow with be another early start as well; and then the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes will be run. A long, full day that will culminate in the crowning of the 2016 Pacific Classic winner.
Come watch with us!