A week before he'll go for the Triple Crown, California Chrome is eager for action. He'll get some at 6:30 Saturday morning, when he is scheduled to breeze half a mile at Belmont Park under jockey Victor Espinoza. Camera crews from CNN, Fox and CBS, among others, are expected before dawn.
After nine days of just galloping for exercise rider Willie Delgado on the main track, the colt "is climbing out of his skin," assistant trainer Alan Sherman said Friday morning. "He's telling me he's ready to work."
Espinoza, making a special trip for the workout, was to arrive Friday night on a flight from California. "Once Victor gets on him," Sherman said, "he'll know it's time to work."
It will be California Chrome's only timed workout between the Preakness and next Saturday's Belmont Stakes. "If he works in 48 [seconds] and gallops out in 1:01," Sherman said, "that would be perfect."
The colt jogged to the starting gate on the backstretch, where at 6:40 Friday morning he stood for a few minutes before galloping "about 1 1/2 miles." He can get fidgety in the gate, and in his last defeat, he hopped at the start, was off slowly and finished sixth Nov. 1 in a stakes for California-breds at Santa Anita.
Sherman said he "behaved well" in this schooling session. "This was just to make sure he stayed square in the gate. He has a tendency to spread his feet in there and rock back and forth. I might take him one more time next week."
Sherman said farrier Judd Fisher would put new shoes on "Chromie" Friday, as he did before the May 17 Preakness. When asked what it's like to work around America's most famous horse, Fisher smiled and said, "Makes you shake."
California Chrome has four white feet, often a red flag among horsemen. "His feet are pretty good," Fisher said, "but sometimes it's a challenge to work with white-footed horses."
Sherman agreed, saying, "White feet can get a little soft, but he's had no foot problems."
Originally, he wore glue-on shoes, but last fall, Fisher decided "on my own" to nail them on. "I just wanted him to get up off his sole a little more than he was," he said.
That was fine with Sherman. "I trust Judd's judgment," he said. "He doesn't tell me how to do my job, and I don't tell him how to do his."
Coincidentally, or maybe not, California Chrome's six-stakes winning streak began last Dec. 22 at Hollywood Park after two equipment changes -- switching from glue to nails on his shoes, and adding an equine nasal strip (co-owner Perry Martin's idea) -- and two personnel moves -- replacing jockey Alberto Delgado with Espinoza and making Willie Delgado, Alberto's younger brother, his exercise rider.
"He hasn't lost with me or with the shoes," Willie Delgado joked, "so that must be it."
Notes & quotes: Kid Cruz, eighth in the Preakness, worked 6 furlongs in 1:14.53. Trainer Linda Rice was noncommittal about running him in the Belmont. The colt is named for Giants receiver Victor Cruz . . . Noble Causeway, who sired Belmont prospect Samraat, was euthanized Tuesday because of complications from laminitis, a hoof disease that makes it extremely painful to stand. Samraat was foaled in the Hamptons at My Meadowview Farm in Water Mill.