As I pulled into the parking lot at Los Alamitos Race Course on Friday morning, I thought about how light it was already, and how different that would be next week. With daylight saving time starting on Sunday morning, sunrise will be an hour later, making photography more challenging. But on this morning there was plenty of light and a solid contingent of regulars gathered inside the track kitchen, chatting and laughing as I walked in.
I quickly caught up with trainer Art Sherman, who asked about my progress in packing for my move to Georgia and the arrival of my husband, to help with the final details and the cross country drive. (After a lot of discussion, a few weeks ago we reached the happy decision to make our farm outside of Atlanta our permanent home.)
I left the track kitchen as the ten minute warning went out that the track would be closing for mid-morning renovations, and met up with assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, as he was finishing his first round of morning workouts. We walked together and Alan gave me a hard time for arriving at 7:30 instead of 5:30 when workouts started. Alan likes to poke at me, and I generally leave myself open to his good natured ribbing. It’s like a bother/sister thing.
When we reached the office, I set down the large box I was carrying - full of prints to be signed and gifts for some of my friends. I had also brought my first digital camera for Alan to try, so we spent a few minutes during the break getting him familiar its basic operation. With very little instruction, he was quickly out the door, snapping photos left and right in the yard outside the barn.
While Alan tried out his new toy, I checked in with groom Raul Rodriquez as he was putting the finishing touches on California Chrome’s leg wraps. Raul was in good spirits, as usual, and quickly finished his task and led the champion colt out of his stall for a lap of the yard before exercise rider Anna Wells mounted the chestnut colt and headed toward the track.
The tractors were making their final pass, and I stood close to Anna and Chrome as they waited to walk through the gap in the track. With blinkers on and Anna gently stroking his neck, Chrome stood like a statue, taking in the sights and sounds around him. He didn’t dance or fidget, but was eager to get moving as soon as Anna urged him forward.
Working six furlongs, Chrome left his escort pony at the first turn and immediately settled into a comfortable rhythm. He ran fluidly down the back stretch and blazed around the turn with seemingly little effort. As he passed me, I thought about how easy Anna makes it look to pilot such a powerful animal and keep everyone safe. While I joked with her later about mounting up myself, I know just how hard she works. I’ll stick to my sweet, hunky Percheron, and no one gets hurt.
Back at the barn, as the team got Chrome cleaned up and cooled down, I chatted with co-owner Steve Coburn, his wife Carolyn, and their granddaughter, Savannah. Chrome hardly looked like he had broken a sweat, as he covered his six furlong work in 1:11.00 and we all agreed that he looked as good and as strong as ever.
Chrome will have one more workout stateside before he and his team depart for The United Arab Emirates and the Dubai World Cup. I’ll catch his final work next Friday, and the following Monday Raul, Alan and exercise rider Willie Delgado fly out, followed the next day by a special equine transport carrying California Chrome and the other US contenders. I expect everyone will be at the top of their game.