With little time to write before having to head back to Del Mar, I’m going to rely on my photography to tell this morning’s story.
I arrived at the track just before dawn, and just in time to catch the team from Sherman Racing Stables, trainers of five-year-old champion California Chrome, head out for his prerace morning jog. Horses and trainers have their race-day routines, and a stoic Dihigi Gladney, exercise rider for Chrome, ably guided him along the rail to backtrack a lap before returning him to the barn.
As the entourage, made up of Taylor Made Stallions’ representatives and their partners, stood at the gap in the chute waiting for Chrome to jog up the fence line, we got to say good morning to Bob Baffert’s assistant trainer, Jimmy Barnes, as he guided Dortmund onto the track aboard the steady pony, Smokey. (Jimmy and Smokey were constant companions to Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh all of last year.)
The morning for Team Chrome was uneventful, capped off with a bath and a walk to cool down while connections conducted business and social conversations, scattered over the yard outside Chrome’s stall.
But Sherman Racing has more than just their “big horse” at Del Mar, and with four additional horses to work, I strode out to the grandstand with trainer Art Sherman, where he took up position to watch his trainees.
The wait turned out to be long, as there were several incidents on the track that required work to stop, and we stepped back into the paddock while Dihigi walked his trainee, waiting for the track to reopen. This also gave me time to run back up to the grandstand to fetch Art’s stopwatch, which he had left behind.
After a telephone interview with a New York publication, horses finally got to work and I headed back to the barn to check up on the team. I found California Chrome resting comfortably in his stall, being offered a few cookies by assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, while groom Raul Rodriquez went about his process of cleaning up the stable area.
Media was about to descend for the numerous interviews with the team as they get ready for the San Diego Handicap to run at 6:03 p.m. PT later that evening, so I said good morning to my friends and headed for the parking lot.
The energy in the barn was calm with just a hint of anticipation. A feeling that will build as we all reconvene a couple of hours before post time, to pace around and wait for the call over the public address system on the backside that horses for the ninth race are wanted in the receiving barn.
Talking with a friend yesterday, we remarked how Olympic Champion sprinter Usain Bolt would preform in a 100-meter dash against the top college athletes in the country. We agreed that he would glide over the finish line in first place, without even extending himself. Horse racing is a different. Preparations for this race have gone perfectly, and California Chrome looks amazing, and acts like a happy horse, ready to do his job.
Nothing to do now but wait for the outcome.