ELMONT, N.Y. -- Rain can’t dampen California Chrome’s party.
Despite a deluge Thursday morning at Belmont Park, it was business as usual for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner as he prepared for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Shortly after 6 a.m., California Chrome “schooled” in the starting gate – basically practicing patience. Accompanied by exercise rider Willie Delgado, he then splashed in an easy gallop around the sloppy main track.
California Chrome has a history of bad starts because of little quirks in the gate. He tends to rock back and forth, which can cause him to break awkwardly. Improving his gate habits has been a major priority as he prepares for the biggest race of his life.
“He was perfect in the gate this morning,” assistant trainer Alan Sherman said. “No rocking at all. He doesn’t do that in the morning, just in the afternoon (before races). He gets a little anxious to get going.”
As a native Californian, the 3-year-old chestnut colt rarely saw storms while growing up in Coalinga or racing in Southern California. But during his five-week Triple Crown odyssey, it’s been one rainy day after another.
“The horse trains fine in it,” Sherman said. “He doesn’t really like it, but he doesn’t have any trouble with it.”
Sherman said there was plenty of rain in Kentucky before the Derby, then in Maryland before the Preakness. New York’s pre-Belmont thunderstorms are more of the same.
“We’ve had lots of rain everywhere we went on this road trip,” Sherman said. “I wish we could take some of this back to California.”
By Saturday, rain won’t be a factor, say forecasters. With sunny skies predicted for both Friday and Saturday, a fast – and dry – track is expected for the 146th Belmont Stakes. The forecast calls for 84 degrees on Saturday, 5 degrees warmer than previously predicted.
Another Sherman arrives – Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer, got welcome and expected news late Wednesday night. He’s a great-grandfather.
Brianne Sherman, Art’s granddaughter and Alan’s daughter, gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Temecula. Logan weighed in at “6 pounds and a little extra,” Alan said. “We’re so excited.”
Both Art and Alan Sherman were jockeys before they switched to training horses. Alan doubts little Logan will follow them into the saddle.
“He’s long,” he said, noting he’ll probably be too tall for that profession.
Brianne also skipped out on the horse business, he added. She suffers from hay fever.
“Whenever she comes around the barn, her eyes swell up immediately,” Alan said. “She’s just too allergic to work there.”
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.