ELMONT, N.Y. - Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome set foot on the Belmont Park main track for the first time on Wednesday, leisurely jogging once around the 1 Â½-mile course with exercise rider Willie Delgado aboard.
California Chrome, who arrived at Belmont yesterday, stepped onto the track at approximately 6:45 a.m. and for the next 12 minutes jogged clockwise near the outer rail before slowing to a walk for the final sixteenth of a mile.
"He actually surprised me, how good he was feeling this morning," said Alan Sherman, assistant trainer to his father, Art Sherman. "It's amazing how quick this horse is bouncing back off these big races he's running. He was dragging me around the shed row, he dragged Willie around the track today. He was really feeling good."
Alan Sherman said California Chrome, who is owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, will start galloping tomorrow, which will provide a better idea of how the colt handles the Belmont Park main track.
"He seemed to get over [the track] fine," said Sherman. "He only jogged, so we'll know more in the next few days galloping over it, but he seemed to be fine today."
Delgado said California Chrome was eager to train for the first time since winning the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
"He's usually [strong on the bit] the first day back [on the track] after a race, but today he was [like that] much [stronger] than normal," said Delgado. "It will take him a couple of days. New surroundings, he gets hyped up and tensed up, but it was just like that at Churchill [Downs] the first two days and at Pimlico the first two days. At Los [Alamitos], for that matter, it was the same the first two days. Once he gets used to his surroundings, he'll be back to walking back with a loose rein, looking for the [camera] kind of horse."
Delgado declared California Chrome the paradigm of fitness coming into the 1 Â½-mile Belmont Stakes, the longest and final leg of the Triple Crown.
"After each race he has gotten much stronger," said Delgado. "It's crazy because I have never seen a horse like that."
"He went the mile and a quarter [in the Derby] and was being eased at the end," Delgado added. "That shows you how fit he is. We don't have to do anything special, just maintain him. He knows what he's here for. He's an athlete, he's a professional. I don't see a problem with him getting a mile and a half, or winning it. Come the day of the race, it's all up to him and God."