'All systems go' as countdown continues for Triple Crown contender California Chrome

Story by: Jenny Kellner

After Triple Crown contender California Chrome galloped two miles at 6 a.m. over Belmont Park's main track, assistant trainer Alan Sherman declared "all systems go" as the colt continued preparations for a date with history in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on June 7.

"The track was a little deeper today but he got over it fine," said Sherman of California Chrome, who is bidding to end a 36-year Triple Crown drought in the 1 ½-mile "Test of the Champion." "All systems go."

The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont was Affirmed, who became racing's 11th Triple Crown winner in 1978. Since then 11 horses have tried unsuccessfully to complete the sweep; in 2012, I'll Have Another won the Derby and Preakness but was scratched from the Belmont.

At his daily press briefing on the Memorial Day holiday, Sherman began by paying tribute to the men and women of the United States military.

"First off, I'd like to thank the veterans of our armed forces [and] the men and women currently serving in the armed forces for making this country the best country in the world," he said.

Asked about his anxiety level as the Belmont draws closer, Alan Sherman - son of trainer Art Sherman - said he anticipated butterflies to set in a couple of days before the race.

"I think two or three days before the race I'll start getting anxious," he said. "Right now, as long as he's training fine, I'm doing fine."

Sherman said he keeps his 77-year-old father - who returned to his base at Los Alamitos in Orange County, Calif. after the Preakness - apprised of California Chrome's progress via daily telephone calls, usually before 5 a.m. Pacific time and usually quite brief.

"I told him the horse was great," he said.

Although the handsome chestnut colt is not weighed, California Chrome definitely has added on some pounds since the Preakness, he said.

"We measure his girth," Sherman said, who also revealed California Chrome wears a standard size 6 horseshoe. "Before the Derby it was 71 inches; before the Preakness is was 71 inches. Now he's 72 inches."

The assistant trainer clearly has been enjoying every minute of the Triple Crown, but he did admit the five-week span between the May 3 Derby and the June 7 Belmont can be tiring for both horse and human and added that he was planning on a fishing trip to Alaska later this month.

"It's a great ride," he said. "Back home [in California] the people have all been really excited and it's been great for Los Alamitos to have this horse stabled there. I'm not looking for this to be over. But me and the horse could probably use a rest."