After a week on the Georgia farm that I share with my husband, Scott, and temperatures that were below freezing in the evenings and early morning hours, the air felt balmy this morning in San Diego as I loaded my car for my drive to Los Alamitos.
Coffee, camera and lots of photographic prints, ordered by California Chrome fans and awaiting team signatures, were loaded in the car as I left my house at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday.
While the roads were well populated, my trip went smoothly and I arrived just before 7 a.m. under gray, overcast skies.
I found trainer Art Sherman chatting with friends in the track kitchen. Happily surprised to see me, he greeted me with a hug and a peck on the cheek. After the San Antonio Invitational Stakes on Feb. 7, I had headed East to have time with my husband and our critters just southeast of Atlanta, in Covington, Ga., so Art had not been sure about when I would return.
I had a box of photos for Art to sign, and he was incredibly agreeable about getting them done before workouts picked up again when the track reopened after the first break. Art worked through my stack of photographs like the pro that he is, and very shortly after that I was making my way back to the barn, carrying the large box that folks kept mistaking for donuts, or peanuts or some other sort of snack. (Note to anyone coming to the track - you can clean up if you bring food for sale.)
Not long after I had said good morning to my friends, and the horses and other animals that inhabit the Sherman barn, jockey Victor Espinoza arrived, ready to work the champion who has been his mount for the past year. Victor settled in, chatting with assistant trainer Alan Sherman and exercise rider Willie Delgado before being called out to get a leg up and take 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome out for his half-mile workout.
As Victor and Chrome were led out of the yard, they passed the newly painted sign announcing that the multiple Eclipse Award winner resides at the Sherman barn at Los Alamitos. It’s a nice addition to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes signs, and I applaud the artist the Sherman’s have chosen for this task — classy and very well done.
The morning was gloomy and the track empty as Chrome and his escort pony stood for a moment at the gap on the backside, waiting for the tractors to finish renovating the course. As soon as they were waived onto the track, Chrome stepped eagerly onto the dirt and made his way around the first turn to the half-mile pole, where he left his escort pony in a flash.