CALIFORNIA CHROME (1st) – The chestnut colt California Chrome carved his name in the history books Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs, earning himself the right to sleep in until 6 o’clock Sunday morning at his Barn 20 new Kentucky home.
“He’s fine,” reported the newest oldest trainer (77) to win a Kentucky Derby, Art Sherman, to an early bird gathering of media types Sunday at the barn. “He left just a handful of grain in his tub last night, but that’s all. His appetite was good. He got a little tired, but not too bad. Victor (jockey Victor Espinoza) told me yesterday that he did get a bit tired on him at the end; that he eased him a bit that last 70 yards. He said he didn’t ask him for too much thinking about saving something for the next one, for the Preakness.”
Espinoza began to draw clear from his 18 rivals inside the quarter pole, but mostly kept busy aboard his mount through the lane. He popped California Chrome three times on the flank, but mostly just waved his whip alongside his head to give him encouragement. His final winning margin was a length and three-quarters.
Sherman said the Preakness was the next goal for the son of Lucky Pulpit, though he wasn’t fully sure when and how the horse would head up to Baltimore.
“I’m thinking we might keep him here four or five days, then van him up there,” the conditioner said. “We could fly him, but we’ll have to see.
“To be honest, I’m not real comfortable with running him back in two weeks, but I know that’s what we’re bound to do. I don’t normally run any kind of horse back in two weeks, not even lowly claimers. I’m more the kind of guy who likes to wait seven or eight weeks between races. These horses run hard and they need time to recover.”
Sherman was asked if he was concerned at any point during California Chrome’s winning Derby run.
“Not really,” he said. “When Victor broke clear and got a good position, I knew we were good. He (Espinoza) told me after he had some thoughts about sending him away from there to avoid any trouble, but that he liked his position. He didn’t want to get forced down on the rail and he was looking around from side to side to see what the other riders were doing, but he held his position. I saw that the fractions weren’t that fast – 47 (seconds) for the half isn’t fast for this horse – and I saw Victor had a good spot and hadn’t let him run at all yet, so I was happy.”
Sherman was asked if he had other concerns about his horse and a possible run toward the Triple Crown.
“I try to take these races one at a time,” he said. “But I’m always concerned about my horses. You know how fragile they are, so you’ve got to be concerned. It’s just how they are.
“But I’m really happy for this horse and what he did yesterday. I know there was talk here that he wasn’t really a good horse, that he was only a ‘California’ horse. I knew he was a really good horse, but now everyone else does, too. He beat good horses in good style and there’s no denying that now. He’s peaking now. He’s full of himself. And the nice thing about him is that you can do anything you want with him. Victor said that when he won the Derby with War Emblem (in 2002) he knew he was only a one-dimensional horse – he had to go to the front. This horse gives you options. He has the speed to be in front, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s just a really cool horse.
“He’s a double-tough little horse and I want to keep him around. I think he’ll be a terrific 4-year-old.”
The conditioner said he and his entourage had had a late dinner at his hotel (The Brown) by way of celebration and that it was about 12:45 when he toddled off to bed. He said he got about four hours sleep before he headed back to the racetrack to check on his charge.
Sherman, who trains about 20 horses at his Los Alamitos headquarters in Orange County, indicated he’d be headed back to Southern California Monday morning. His son and assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, would stay on with California Chrome.
“I heard it erupted at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos when he won yesterday,” Sherman said. “I was told they went bananas. I’m glad for everyone in California. He’s a rock star.”
COMMANDING CURVE (2nd) – The morning after Commanding Curve made a strong late run to finish second in the Derby, trainer Dallas Stewart said he's 50-50 about running him in the Preakness.
"We'll see how it goes, that's all,'' Stewart said.
Stewart is thrilled with how Commanding Curve performed.
"I was watching that son of a gun on the turn, and he was passing horses,” Stewart said. “Boy, he was flying past them. Yeah, he's a really nice horse, and I want to keep him healthy. I want to win a couple big ones with him. I think he's very capable.''
Stewart praised winner California Chrome, who defeated Commanding Curve by 1 3/4 lengths.
"I thought he ran great,'' Stewart said. "He had an easy pace of it. The kid (Victor Espinoza) gave him a great ride, kept him clear. We just couldn't catch him.''
Stewart said he'll monitor how Commanding Curve trains and isn't in a hurry to make a decision on the Preakness.
"I want to keep him healthy,'' Stewart said. "We were patient all along, patient in New Orleans.''
DANZA (3rd)/WE MISS ARTIE (10th)/INTENSE HOLIDAY (12th)/VINCEREMOS (17th) – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Derby quartet were none the worse for wear Sunday morning at Barn 34 following Saturday’s 140th edition of America’s most famous race.
The conditioner already had shipped north to his New York headquarters, leaving his Churchill string in the capable hands of his 17-year assistant Ginny DePasquale.
“They’re all doing fine, touch wood,” DePasquale said. “They’ll head up to Belmont (Park) next. The other horses in this barn will go to New York, about half to Belmont, the others to Saratoga.”
DePasquale confirmed that We Miss Artie, a Canadian-bred, would be pointed for that country’s biggest race, the Queen’s Plate, another mile and one-quarter for 3-year-olds. The Canadian classic, which carries a $1 million purse will be run on Sunday, July 6.
As far as the stable’s other three runners – Danza, Intense Holiday and Vinceremos – DePasquale believed that all options were open for them.
“I’m sure Todd will take some time, get them back out on the track to train, then figure out where they’ll be running next,” she said.
WICKED STRONG (4th) – Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said a slow pace and a tough trip compromised Wicked Strong, who made a final rally to finish fourth.
The colt came out of the race in good shape and will be on a van back to Belmont Park in New York on Monday. Jerkens said it was a “long possibility” that Wicked Strong would compete in the Preakness.
Even though the field contained many horses that had shown speed in previous races, the pedestrian Derby pace did not suit Wicked Strong and jockey Rajiv Maragh, who started from the outside post and was five-wide on the first turn.
“There was a big ball of horses out there,” Jerkens said. “That’s not what we wanted. That’s why we got stuck out there. We didn’t have anywhere to tuck in.”
Wicked Strong never found the running room that he used to good advantage winning the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 5.
“My horse looked like he found a little seam turning for home,” Jerkens said, “But he didn’t quite have enough to bully his way through and get in the clear and it closed up on him. Things closed up on him two or three times after that. Every time he’d go somewhere, he’d get shut off.”
Still, Jerkens was pleased with the performance.
“I thought he was game,” he said. “With all that he went through, he still had that surge at the end to get fourth. That said a lot.”
SAMRAAT (5th) – Trainer Rick Violette said he was delighted with the performance put in by Samraat, who finished fifth under Jose Ortiz in the Kentucky Derby.
“I thought he gave us a typical Samraat performance,” Violette said Sunday morning “He laid it all on the line and gave us what he had. He ran his eyeballs out. He chased what is obviously a good horse and at the head of the lane your hair stood up on the back of your neck because we were certainly in it. It looked like if he could go on he had every shot of winning it.
“I thought he ran terrific and that Jose rode a wonderful race. We were in a position to win. He rode to win. You don’t go into the Derby hoping to pick up the pieces. He rode him to win, the pace was moderate and we were right where we were supposed to be.”
Violette said the colt was fine, but that he did not know when Samraat would run next. As for the Preakness, he said that Samraat was “possible, but not probable.”
“He showed signs last night that he was coming out of the race well,” Violette said. “We had him out grazing for a half an hour or so and he was pretty aggressive grazing. He was hungry. He was tired, but not depleted. Otherwise he was in good form. This morning he was pretty keen and bright.”
Samraat will be flown back to New York on Monday.
DANCE WITH FATE (6th) – Trainer Peter Eurton headed back to California early Sunday morning and Dance With Fate was slated to return to his home base at Santa Anita on Monday.
Dance With Fate sustained a small nick on the back of one of his legs in the race according to groom Francisco Tabuyo, but otherwise was doing well Sunday morning.
Eurton indicated by text that the sixth-place Kentucky Derby finisher’s next start probably would come at the Del Mar meet that begins in July but “is not etched in stone.
RIDE ON CURLIN (7th) – Trainer Billy Gowan on Sunday was lamenting the trip that Ride on Curlin experienced in his run to seventh place in the Derby.
After the break, Calvin Borel immediately steered Ride On Curlin from his far outside position to the rail, and he was racing in last place entering the backstretch. Inside running room never opened, and Ride On Curlin would up on the outside for a belated rally.
"No racing luck,'' Gowan said. "He got over there (to the rail) and had nowhere to go the whole race, pretty much. Then, he gets out in the middle of track before it's over with.''
Gowan pointed to a small amount of feed that Ride On Curlin didn't eat overnight.
"That's pretty good after racing a mile and a quarter,'' Gowan said. "He looks good. It was just bad racing luck, bad post position. But he's one tough horse. You've got to be proud of him. When he did get clear, he did come running, so that's all you can ask, really.''
Ride On Curlin is a possibility for the Preakness, Gowan said.
"We'll see,'' he said. "If he bounces out of these races like he has been, we might try the Preakness. We'll just see. He's tough, so I expect him to bounce out of it good. We'll definitely consider it.''
MEDAL COUNT (8th) – Medal Count was forced to steady when cut off by Danza in mid-stretch of the Derby, which likely cost him a better placing.
“I think we could’ve moved up a couple positions but I don’t think it kept us from winning,” trainer Dale Romans said after the race.
Contacted this morning, Romans declined to speculate on any future plans for the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) runner-up.
“Seemed like he came out of it fine,” Romans said. “I really have no thoughts right now.”
CHITU (9th) – Chitu was doing well Sunday morning after finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby. The Henny Hughes colt put in a strong performance but faded in the stretch.
“He came out of the race fine,” said Jimmy Barnes, trainer Bob Baffert’s longtime assistant. “It was just a little too far for him, but he was there. Turning for home he took the lead. He gave us all a thrill for the first mile of the race anyway.”
Baffert said that Chitu will not go on to the Preakness.
GENERAL A ROD (11th)/HARRY’S HOLIDAY (16th)/VICAR’S IN TROUBLE (19th) – With trainer Mike Maker at Trackside Training Center on Sunday morning, assistant Evelio Chavez was at the Churchill Downs barn housing Vicar's in Trouble, Harry's Holiday, and General a Rod.
Vicar's in Trouble, who finished 19th, Harry's Holiday, 16th, and General a Rod, 11th, came out of the race in good order, Chavez said.
"Vicar's in Trouble, he had a lot of problems at the break and the gate, and was squeezed, and he got a really terrible trip, you know, but he's OK,'' Chavez said. "He's fine. Harry, he's fine, too. And General a Rod, he's coming back like a normal gallop. He’s probably going to be better next time.''
CANDY BOY (13th) – The 13th-place finisher in Kentucky Derby 140, Candy Boy, had a quiet morning at Barn 43 following his eventful run in the mile and one-quarter classic. Rider Gary Stevens snatched the dark colt and wheeled to the outside heading into the first turn when he found himself in a squeeze between horses, then never got a chance to be a threatening element in the race.
“He appears to be fine this morning,” trainer John Sadler reported, with just a touch of frustration in his voice. The conditioner had expected a much better effort from his charge, but knew well he’d have to live with the outcome.
“I’m going to talk to the owners for their feedback on what’s next,” he said. “I’m fairly certain he’s coming back to California. I’d say about 90% sure. There’s a slight chance we’d consider Baltimore (and the Preakness Stakes), but only a slight one.”
Sadler will return to his large stable at Santa Anita today. Should the decision be to return Candy Boy to California, the trainer had a Monday flight option for him.
TAPITURE (15th) – Tapiture accelerated into a decent position around the Derby’s final turn, but flattened out approaching the quarter pole. The effort convinced trainer Steve Asmussen that the longer distances of the Triple Crown are likely not optimal for the Southwest Stakes winner by Tapit.
“He came out of the race really good,” Asmussen said. “We’ll shorten up his races a bit. I think he looked competitive to a point and then distance was exposed.”
Asmussen watched the Derby replay several times from horseback this morning as it looped on the Big Board during training hours.
“You watch a lot of troubled trips and then you look back at California Chrome and it looked like he was in complete control the whole way,” he said.
Asked his impressions of the winner, Asmussen suggested the California-bred was a credit to his 77-year-old trainer.
“I thought he reflected Art Sherman,” Asmussen said. “He wasn’t overwhelmed by the situation, did what he did and went about his business as usual and looked like a winner every step of the race.
“He’s definitely my pick. I would expect him to be able to be in the best shape in two weeks but we’ll see.”
With Tapiture out of the Preakness picture, there was a small possibility that his stablemate, Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable, might go to Baltimore. Her trainer, however, confirmed that the Triple Crown’s middle jewel is not under consideration.
“I spoke with Ron Winchell and (racing manager) David Fiske last night and we didn’t feel that it was in her best interest to run back in two weeks,” Asmussen said. “Her temperament is the biggest question there. The Acorn and the Mother Goose were mentioned, but obviously that’s before she’s gone back to the track or anything.”
The Grade I, $750,000 Acorn at one mile is part of the Belmont Stakes undercard on June 7, while the Grade I, $300,000 Mother Goose at 1 1/16 miles is set for June 28, also at Belmont Park.
Asmussen also confirmed that none of his other 3-year-olds is under consideration for the Preakness or Belmont.
WILDCAT RED (18th) – Trainer Jose Garoffalo reported Sunday morning that Wildcat Red came out of his 18th-place finish in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby with a deep cut on the outside of his right front leg.
“It’s not too serious, but it’s deep. It’s something we have to pay attention to. But he’s walking good. In general, he’s doing good,” Garoffalo said. “He got hit pretty hard.”
Garoffalo said Wildcat Red would van back to Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on Monday or Tuesday.
“We’ll give the horse the time he needs to recover, but he’ll be back,” Garoffalo said of his Fountain of Youth winner.