Hundreds of California Chrome's fans woke up early Saturday to watch him work out, and on a cool, windy morning, the Triple Crown contender blew them away.
The charismatic chestnut colt breezed a half-mile in 47.69 seconds for jockey Victor Espinoza shortly before 7 a.m. New York Racing Association clockers caught him in 59.93 for 5 furlongs, and he galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:12.95.
More Belmont Stakes
Assistant trainer Alan Sherman said: "It was a great work, exactly what we wanted."
Trainers always say things like that, but an objective observer was even more upbeat.
"Off that work, he's going to be tough to beat," Daily Racing Form clocker Mike Vesce said. "I think we're going to have a Triple Crown winner, and I didn't think that before."
"Chromie" entered the track at 6:38 to cheers from the Breakfast at Belmont crowd as commentator Mary Ryan introduced him.
The work began on Belmont Park's far turn, and California Chrome accelerated down the stretch as dozens of cameras whirred.
"It was great to have the fans come out to see him," Sherman said. "Victor said he went great and that he was very happy with him."
Sherman said his father, 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman, was encouraged, too. Art has been supervising his stable at Los Alamitos in California since May 18, and he's scheduled to arrive at Belmont Monday afternoon.
Espinoza will ride here this week and won't return to California until after Saturday's Belmont Stakes. He'll throw the first pitch Monday night at Yankee Stadium and appear Wednesday on "The Late Show With David Letterman."
A large entourage of media and fans followed California Chrome to Barn 26, and 20 photographers went around back to get better shots of his bath.
Later, while being walked inside the barn, the media-savvy colt stopped to oblige his paparazzi with full-face and profile shots.
Because of his unfashionable pedigree, he's called "the people's horse," and he clearly enjoys attention from humans.
Security guards were less enthusiastic about the gathering at the barn, saying, "Please clear the horse path." A man asked Sherman for a family photo opportunity with the horse. The trainer politely declined, although the animal probably would have said, "Sure."
Espinoza hadn't seen California Chrome for two weeks. "He looked great," he said. "He handled the track very well. I think he likes the surface at Belmont."
Sherman said the colt will walk Sunday before resuming gallops of 1 1/2 to two miles Monday.
Asked about the Triple Crown journey, Sherman said: "It's been a fun ride. I think Chrome has the will, he just loves his job. I'm confident in the horse, but we still have to run the race."
Add General a Rod. Trainer Mike Maker said he will enter General a Rod (fourth in the Preakness) in the Belmont. Rosie Napravnik will ride . . . Social Inclusion, a Belmont possibility, blazed 3 furlongs in 33.48 . . . Tonalist breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00.11 . . . Samraat went a mile in 1:47.33 at Aqueduct . . . Medal Count breezed 6 furlongs in 1:10.20 at Churchill Downs.