BALTIMORE (AP) — Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome was none too eager to get his first look at Pimlico Race Course on Monday.
Upon arriving at site of the Preakness, California Chrome refused to peek his head outside the van. Finally, after much prodding, the strapping thoroughbred backed out.
“I have no idea why he doesn’t like to walk out front,” assistant trainer Alan Sherman said.
Sherman is counting on his seeing his horse move briskly forward out of the starting gate Saturday, when California Chrome will attempt to win the Preakness and keep alive his bid to become horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“It’s an awesome feeling having a horse of this caliber,” Sherman said. “It’s the first time we’ve had a horse this good, so we’re enjoying the ride.”
After being transported on a chartered flight from Kentucky, receiving a police escort from Baltimore-Washington International Airport and grudgingly exiting the van, California Chrome settled into prestigious Stall 40 at the Pimlico stakes barn.
Stall 40 is the traditional home to the Kentucky Derby winner. Listed above the stall is a list of horses that have stayed there, including Secretariat and Seattle Slew.
“I was looking at the list of horses that have been in that stall. It’s quite unbelievable,” Sherman said.
Asked how it would feel to see California Chrome’s name added to that list, Sherman replied, “That would be wonderful. That would be great. I’d love to see that happen. The horse is doing great. I just hope he takes to the track. He hasn’t had to take his track with him so far. It’s all looking great right now.
Owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn bred an $8,000 mare to a $2,500 stallion to produce California Chrome, who won the Derby as the favorite and almost certainly will go off as the favorite in the Preakness.
“I’d rather be the favorite than not,” Sherman said.
The field for the Preakness began to take shape.
Ria Antonia, ridden by Calvin Borel, will be the first filly in the Preakness since 2009 when Rachel Alexandra won.
For the first time in the Preakness, a filly, a female jockey and a female trainer will all compete at the same time. Rosie Napravnik will ride Bayern and trainer Linda Rice will saddle Kid Cruz.
Ride On Curlin, seventh in the Derby, shipped with California Chrome on Monday.
“He’s got a good mind; nothing much bothers him,” trainer Billy Gowan said. “I rode on the plane with him and in the van with him. It was good. We got a police escort, so we didn’t have to stop.”
General a Rod, Dynamic Impact, Social Inclusion, Kid Cruz, Pablo Del Monte and Ring Weekend are also expected to run.
“Chrome is my main focus, but you’re going to look at the competition,” Sherman said. “Looks like they’ll be quite a bit of speed in the race. I thought that at Churchill (Downs), too, but it didn’t develop. But it looks like there’s going to be some speed in this race.”