Wednesday morning I pulled up to the gate of the farm that I share with my dear husband and our menagerie of animals to embark on my trip to south Florida for the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park in Hallendale Beach. It was the seventh time since last January that I would travel to be with my friends from Sherman Racing Stables and their champion trainee, California Chrome, as he contested races in the United States. Each time my Scott has sent me off with a kiss and his unwavering support for what I do, while he has tended to farm and family. Every time I have thanked him for his love and encouragement, and this time I added, "This is the last race."
The flight from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale was a breeze, and after collecting my friend and travel companion, Margaret Luckett, we were on our way to the track to pick up our media credentials and visit the barn. We were greeted by groom, Raul Rodriquez, who had a big smile and a hug for each of us. He was standing in the stall with Chrome while a routine, pre-race treatment was being administered. Both horse and human were happy and at ease. It was good to see them.
The following morning we arrived at the barn before sunrise and there were hugs and smiles all around. Trainer Art Sherman gave us a warm greeting, joined by his lovely bride, Faye. Assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, was working with Raul to get Chrome ready for his morning jog, and the yard outside the shed row quickly filled up with the close connections to this incredible horse that include family, friends and owners.
The most remarkable thing that I have experienced with Team Sherman is that the line between owners and friends gets blurred almost immediately. A certain type of client is drawn to work with this team, and you see a closeness develop with ease. The addition of Taylor Made Farms and the Taylor family has been a natural fit to the ownership of California Chrome and his training team.
Shortly after everyone was assembled, Alan and Raul brought Chrome out to walk the shed row and his exercise rider, Dihigi Gladney, got a leg up and headed to the track. Chrome's full security detail followed behind and led the entourage to a safe area to watch Chrome jog.
There are many things for which I am grateful with regard to this horse, and in the morning it's his distinctive blaze that cuts through the darkness to let you know that he's coming around the turn and jogging toward you. Over the years I've learned to pick up Chrome's stride, when I can see him in the distance, and I've gotten familiar with the way that Digihi holds his hands and positions himself on the horse.
After two leisurely laps around the track, Chrome stood in the starting gate positioned int he chute at the north end of the track. As he exited to walk back to the barn, Alan and Art thanked the starting gate team for coming out so early, allowing them to school their horse before the crowds arrived on the track, keeping Chrome's pre-race routine.
After a shower and walking the shed row to cool out, Chrome was tucked back in his stall for some rest and the crowd outside his barn was entertained by Dihigi as he took over interview duties from Zoe Cadman at XBTV. He did a wonderful job getting Art, Alan and Frank Taylor's thoughts on race preparations and Chrome's condition, to the delight of everyone present.
With the promise to connect in the afternoon for the races, we headed to the paddock to check in with a group of Chromies as they were taping a segment for CBSN to be aired on Thursday morning.
A peaceful start to what is sure to be a memorable trip.