California Chrome walked through the tunnel leading to the main track Thursday before halting at 6:40 on an unseasonably cool morning. He cocked his head left and gazed for a few minutes up Belmont Park's long stretch, where the Triple Crown contender will face the greatest test of his career June 7 in the Belmont Stakes.
A few minutes earlier, California Chrome was given his first look at Belmont's paddock. Assistant trainer Alan Sherman let him stand in a stall and check the surroundings before exercise rider Willie Delgado began their daily two-mile gallop.
"I don't know if it was the weather,'' Sherman said, "but he was pretty happy today. As usual he started off slowly, but when he hit the half-mile pole he started going pretty good.''
Sherman said he would let his superstar stand in the starting gate this morning before giving him his only timed workout for the Belmont Saturday morning at about 6:30. Jockey Victor Espinoza is to travel from California Friday to ride the work, likely a moderate half-mile breeze.
The size of Belmont Park's 1½-mile main track, the biggest in North America, and its tradition have impressed Sherman, who grew up in California and had never been to the metropolitan area. "This place is massive, and there's a ton of history here,'' he said. "You look at the walls and see the horses and realize how many great horses have run here.''
Perhaps his 3-year-old will join them.