Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome is set to arrive in New York Tuesday morning to prepare for the 146th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 7 as he bids to become the first horse in 36 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
The handsome chestnut colt emerged from Saturday's victory at Pimlico Race Course in good order, said trainer Art Sherman, and likely would have one work at Belmont Park in the three-week interim between the Preakness and the 1 ½-mile "Test of the Champion."
Beginning with Sir Barton in 1919, only 11 horses have swept the series, with Affirmed in 1978 the most recent. Since then, 12 horses have won the Derby and Preakness but none have won the Belmont.
Sherman said he thought the California-bred California Chrome, winner of six straight races, was up to the task.
"I have a good feeling about it," he said Sunday morning. "I'm really confident going into this race. After watching him run yesterday with two weeks [in between the Derby and Preakness] and showing the courage that he had, they better have their running shoes on. I don't care how many fresh shooters they've got there; he's the real McCoy."
The 77-year-old trainer said that he will return to Los Alamitos and that his son and assistant, Alan, would remain with California Chrome when he departs Pimlico at 6 a.m. Tuesday for Belmont Park. Sherman said he planned on returning to New York the week before the Belmont.
"I've always loved New York; of course, I was born in Brooklyn," he said. "It's like coming back. I won't know how the horse will like it until we get to training him over it, but he's run at five different tracks already, so I don't think [he] has to take his track with him."
Joining California Chrome on the van will be Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin, also bound for the Belmont Stakes.
"I thought he ran huge," said trainer Billy Gowan said. "He trained great all week and he ran just like I thought he would, if you want to know the truth. [Joel Rosario] gave him a great ride. At the eighth-pole I thought, heck, we might have a shot. But you have to give a lot of credit to (California Chrome). He doesn't ever quit. Ours didn't either; he just couldn't get to him."
Another Preakness starter under consideration for the Belmont is third-place finisher Social Inclusion, who is scheduled to arrive in New York on Friday. General A Rod (4th), Ring Weekend (5th) and Kid Cruz (8th) are questionable.
Rounding out the Belmont probables are Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong, and Samraat, the second, third, fourth and fifth-place finishers from the Derby; along with Tonalist and Commissioner, who were first and second, respectively, in the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont, and Intense Holiday, who was 12th in the Derby.
"It looks like it might be a full field, and we'll have some horses who ran in the Derby who decided to wait for the Belmont and some who ran in both the Derby and the Preakness," said Rick Violette, trainer of Samraat. "It should be a solid field, and it won't be a layup for anybody."
Todd Pletcher, a two-time Belmont Stakes-winning trainer, including the 2013 edition with Palace Malice, will be represented by the trio of Danza, Commissioner and Intense Holiday.
"It looks like it could be a tough one," said Pletcher, who also won the 2007 Belmont with the filly Rags to Riches.