'Chrome' arrives at Belmont

The Brook Ledge horse van carrying California Chrome and Ride On Curlin pulled up to Barn 26 at Belmont Park at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, where the two will reside for the next 18 days leading up to the June 7 Belmont Stakes.

California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, will be the focus of everyone's attention, as indicated by the throng of media that had begun assembling hours before the arrival of the van, which received a police escort from the Throgs Neck Bridge to the racetrack and had helicopters circling above.

Ride On Curlin established himself as a Belmont threat with a strong second-place finish in the Preakness.

California Chrome, as usual, was backed off the van, and then led to the barn by assistant trainer Alan Sherman, who said the trip was "great" and that the colt "traveled perfectly and ate up his feed."

Sherman said the son of Lucky Pulpit, who was bedded down next to his new friend Ride On Curlin in trainer Jimmy Toner's barn, would jog on Wednesday and then gallop each day before having an easy half-mile work the Saturday before the Belmont. After that, he will jog and gallop up to the race.

Sherman couldn't be more pleased with how Steve Coburn's and Perry Martin's homebred California Chrome came out of the Preakness.

"He cooled out in 20 minutes after the race and has been licking the bottom of his feed tub since," Sherman said.

As for the throat blister that caused the colt to cough four times on the Thursday before the Preakness, Sherman said, "He hasn't coughed once since and hasn't missed an oat. We'll scope him in the next day or two."

Another issue with which Sherman and his father, trainer Art Sherman, have had to deal, was the New York Racing Association ban on nasal strips, which has since been overruled by the New York stewards.

"It wasn't a big issue," Alan Sherman said. "They opened it up for everyone, not just for us."

Sherman realizes what a victory by California Chrome would mean to his team as well as the racing industry.

"It means the world to all of us," he said. "It's been an unbelievable ride and so much fun. He's taken us on the ride of our lives. I'm so proud of my dad to be able to do this at this stage of his career. He really deserves it."

Sherman said the 1½-mile distance is a concern because California Chrome has never been that far, but, as he points out, neither have any of the others. There is also the fact that California Chrome has never raced at Belmont Park.

"You always hope they handle the track, but so far he hasn't had trouble with any track he's ever run on," Sherman said.