Assistant trainer Alan Sherman declared "all systems go" for Triple Crown contender California Chrome after watching the 3-year-old colt gallop two miles at Belmont Park shortly after 6 a.m. (EDT) May 26.
Alan Sherman, who assists his 77-year-old father Art, is overseeing the training of California Chrome as the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit prepares for a possible date with history in the June 7, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. A Belmont victory, coupled with previous triumphs in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes would make Chrome the 12th horse to sweep the three races and the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
"The track was a little deeper today but he got over it fine," Sherman said. "All systems go."
Since Affirmed's win, 11 horses have tried unsuccessfully to complete the sweep; in 2012, I'll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness but was scratched from the Belmont the week of the race due to an injury.
"First off, I'd like to thank the veterans of our armed forces [and] the men and women currently serving in the armed forces for making this country the best country in the world," Sherman said as he began a Memorial Day press briefing following the gallop.
Asked about his anxiety level as the Belmont draws closer, Sherman said he anticipated butterflies to set in a couple of days before the race.
"I think two or three days before the race I'll start getting anxious," he said. "Right now, as long as he's training fine, I'm doing fine."
Sherman said he keeps his father, who returned to his base at Los Alamitos in Orange County, Calif. after the Preakness, apprised of California Chrome's progress via daily telephone calls, usually before 5 a.m. Pacific time and usually quite brief.
"I told him the horse was great," he said.
Although the handsome chestnut colt is not weighed, California Chrome definitely has added some pounds since the Preakness, he said.
"We measure his girth," Sherman said, who also revealed California Chrome wears a standard size 6 horseshoe. "Before the Derby it was 71 inches; before the Preakness is was 71 inches. Now he's 72 inches."
The assistant trainer clearly has been enjoying every minute of the Triple Crown, but he did admit the five-week span between the May 3 Derby and the June 7 Belmont can be tiring for horses and humans; he is planning a fishing trip to Alaska later this month.
"It's a great ride," he said. "Back home [in California] the people have all been really excited and it's been great for Los Alamitos to have this horse stabled there. I'm not looking for this to be over. But me and the horse could probably use a rest."