California Chrome stepped on Belmont Park's main track for the first time at 6:45 Wednesday morning, full of himself and appearing comfortable with the footing on "Big Sandy."
The Triple Crown contender jogged clockwise -- "the wrong way" -- under exercise rider Willie Delgado for 12 minutes all the way around the 11/2-mile oval. They went along the outside rail and slowed to a walk for the final sixteenth of a mile.
Delgado and assistant trainer Alan Sherman loved how the leggy chestnut colt rebounded from his 11/2-length victory in Saturday's Preakness.
"He actually surprised me, how good he was feeling this morning," Sherman said. "He was dragging Willie and me around the [barn]. It's amazing how quickly he's bouncing back off these big races he's running."
Sherman said the colt will resume his daily gallops this morning and will have only one timed workout before the June 7 Belmont Stakes.
"He seemed to get over the track fine," he said. "He only jogged, so we'll learn more in the next few days galloping, but he seemed to be fine."
Delgado said California Chrome's behavior followed his pattern during his first two days at Churchill Downs and at Pimlico. "New surroundings, he gets hyped up and tensed up," he said. "It will take him a few days [to relax]."
The horse's constant companion marveled at his energy and recuperative powers. "After each race he's gotten much stronger," Delgado said. "It's crazy because I have never seen a horse like that."
Danza out of Belmont
Danza, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, has been withdrawn from the Belmont, which should make California Chrome's job a little easier. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he wasn't happy with how the Arkansas Derby winner looked after a workout Sunday at Belmont Park.
"Yeah, he was a lock to win the Belmont," Pletcher joked yesterday.
"Just in general I think he was a little tired from the spring campaign," Pletcher told Newsday. "I just sensed he wasn't 100 percent after that breeze. He's lost a little weight, has a little skin disease. Nothing major, just a little R and R should fix it."
Pletcher said Danza would be sent to Payton Training Center in Ocala, Florida, for diagnostic tests and time off. Pletcher's father, J.J., owns and operates the facility, where for many years he has broken many of Todd's yearlings. It is named for Payton Pletcher, the oldest of Todd's three children.
Pletcher won the Belmont last year with Palace Malice and in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches. He still has two potential Belmont runners: Intense Holiday, 12th in the Derby, and Commissioner, second in the Peter Pan Stakes. Pletcher said depending on the weather, Intense Holiday and Commissioner will work out Sunday at Belmont.
Jockeying for mounts
Rarely does a jockey abandon the Preakness runner-up for another mount in the Belmont. Yet Joel Rosario and agent Ron Anderson decided to stay with Peter Pan winner Tonalist instead of Ride On Curlin. So John Velazquez, who sat out the Preakness, will be on Ride On Curlin in the Belmont. It will be the fifth consecutive race in which he'll have a different jockey.