Art Sherman, tanned and relaxed, leaned against a wall on a terrace overlooking St. Patrick's Cathedral in the city where he was born. Six hours earlier, with his biological clock still on Pacific Time, he saw his Triple Crown contender on the track for the first time since the Preakness.
The 77-year-old trainer said California Chrome looked terrific Tuesday morning as he galloped 23/8 miles for exercise rider Willie Delgado at Belmont Park, where Saturday he'll go for the first sweep of the 3-year-old classics since 1978. Sherman thought the chestnut colt had gained weight and appeared stronger than at Pimlico.
"He's a horse who carries his flesh well and has a certain air about him," Sherman said. "He has the urge to compete, and he's ready to rock and roll. If he wins the Belmont, it would be the top of the world for me and the whole team."
Sherman arrived from California on Monday afternoon after two weeks of supervising his 15-horse stable at Los Alamitos. He hadn't been to Belmont since the 2005 Breeders' Cup, but he spent plenty of time at "Big Sandy" and at the long-gone Jamaica track during his career as a jockey from 1957-78.
"I didn't remember Belmont being this big," he said. "I enjoyed riding it because it had a nice surface and I liked the big turns. It's beautiful, and it's good to be back."
Sherman rode more than 2,000 winners, but he figured he may have made more money as a cardsharp. "I rode Jamaica in the late '50s and early '60s, where I rode a few horses a day but was mainly a standby rider," he said. "I'd have a few mounts early in the card and wait around. I made a lot of money playing cards all afternoon, and I'd ride the last race if anybody took off early. It was all right. I didn't have a weight problem and I ate good because they'd bring all the food down from the turf club."
Sherman, who moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles at 7, said he's going to check out his old neighborhood. "I'm going back to Williamsburg," he said at a news conference for Belmont Stakes owners, trainers and jockeys at Rockefeller Center. "They tell me it's changed. I can afford it now."
His younger son, assistant trainer Alan Sherman, took care of California Chrome in his father's absence. Alan had never been to New York and didn't feel deprived, saying he wasn't a fan of city life. His father, however, was pleased to be in Manhattan.
"I'm kind of a city guy," Art Sherman said. "New York has always been a fun town for me. I remember when I was riding that there was a lot of action when I was a young feller."
Notes & quotes: Trainer Linda Rice withdrew Kid Cruz from consideration for the Belmont . . . The draw is Wednesday at 11 a.m. In the likelihood that Social Inclusion is not entered, California Chrome will face 10 opponents: Commanding Curve, Commissioner, General a Rod, Matterhorn, Matuszak, Medal Count, Ride On Curlin, Samraat, Tonalist and Wicked Strong . . . Saturday's 13-race card, featuring 10 stakes, is worth $8 million, a New York record except for a Breeders' Cup.