From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Kentucky Derby (G1) winner California Chrome is headed to the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, May 17, bringing trainer Art Sherman back to Maryland for the first time in 55 years.
Sherman confirmed his plans to run the Lucky Pulpit colt in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown during a Sunday morning phone call with Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas and two other Preakness officials. Pimlico officials traditionally call the winner of the Kentucky Derby to extend a formal invitation to come to Baltimore.
“He came out of the race and looks really good,” Sherman said.
Although he likes to give his horses plenty of time between races, Sherman said he expects that Steven Coburn and Perry Martin’s homebred colt will be ready for the Preakness.
“Two weeks, I’ve never run him back that quick,” Sherman said. “I’m not that kind of guy. I thought even a month after the Santa Anita Derby to the Kentucky Derby was kind of quick. but he seems to respond and come back.”
California Chrome won the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths with a very professional performance under veteran jockey Victor Espinoza. They sat behind the early pacesetters, Chitu and Uncle Sigh, for three quarters of a mile, moved up to contend for the lead in the second turn and kicked away from the others at the top of the stretch. It was his fifth consecutive victory.
Two Derby starters – runner-up Commanding Curve and seventh-place finisher Ride on Curlin – are candidates to face California Chrome again in the Preakness.
Trainer Wesley Ward said Pablo Del Monte is definitely on course to the Preakness and four other new shooters are considered probable. That group consists of Federico Tesio winner Kid Cruz, trained by Linda Rice; Illinois Derby (G3) winner Dynamic Impact, trained by Mark Casse; Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Bayern, who was disqualified and placed second for interference after finishing first in the Derby Trial (G3); and Social Inclusion, who was third in the Wood Memorial (G1) in his only try in a graded stakes.
Social Inclusion’s owner Ron Sanchez said Sunday that the colt’s foot bruise that kept him out of yesterday’s Sir Bear Stakes at Gulfstream Park was improved and he is planning to ship to Baltimore on Thursday, May 8.
Trainer Graham Motion said Sunday West Point’s Ring Weekend, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) is “50-50” for the race. Ring Weekend came down with a fever last week and did not make the Derby.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who earned his sixth Preakness victory last year with Oxbow, is considering Strong Mandate. The son of Tiznow, who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last year, has not run since an eighth place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
Trainer Todd Pletcher did not commit any of his four Kentucky Derby starters to the Preakness. Pletcher reported that he is “going to get them back to Belmont and give it a few days.”
Pablo Del Monte earned a spot in the Derby field, but Ward opted not to start him from the outside post position and scratched. The speedy third-place finisher in the Blue Grass (G1) worked six furlongs in 1:10.80 at Keeneland Sunday and Ward said the colt is Baltimore-bound.
“We’re so excited, we can’t even stand ourselves,” Ward said. “Yeah, I’m going. I’ve already booked the flight for my horse on the Wednesday before the Preakness.”
Sent off at odds of 37-1, West Point Thoroughbreds’ Commanding Curve rallied from 11th at the top of the stretch to finish second. It was the second year in a row that a long shot trained by Dallas Stewart picked up the second-place money. Last year, Stewart did not send Golden Soul to the Preakness, but he said Sunday that Commanding Curve is a prospect for Maryland’s signature race.
“We will see how he is. If he is OK, he’ll run; if he is not, he won’t,” Stewart said.
Trainer Billy Gowan noted that Ride on Curlin had a tough trip under jockey Calvin Borel. The first-time Derby trainer with a four-horse stable 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.”
Gowan confirmed that Ride On Curlin is a strong candidate for the Preakness.
“We’ll see,” he said. “If he bounces out of these races like he has been, I’m going to the Preakness. We’ll just see. He’s tough, so I expect him to bounce out of it good. We’ll definitely consider it.”
Dynamic Impact, a son of Tiznow owned by John Oxley, has won his last two starts. He broke his maiden on March 1 at Oaklawn Park and won the Illinois Derby on April 14 at Hawthorne Park in Chicago. Dynamic Impact breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
“I have to still talk with Mr. Oxley about it,” trainer Mark Casse said Sunday. “We said we’d discuss it after the Derby, but we were really pleased with his work Saturday. I would say there is a more likely than not chance that we’d be going.”
Sherman plans to keep California Chrome at Churchill Downs before sending him to Baltimore. Preakness officials are working with Sherman to develop a plan to ship California Chrome to Pimlico on Monday, May 12.
“Five days at Pimlico would be perfect for me,” Sherman said. “That way I wouldn’t have to do much with him. Just school him, stand him in the gate and let him get familiarized with the surroundings.”
Sherman is based in California and said he has not been to Maryland since he rode at the old Bowie Race Course in 1959. Sherman said he rode a few races at Laurel during his 23-year career as a jockey, but has never been to Pimlico Race Course.
Though he set a record as the oldest Derby-winning trainer, Sherman, 77, is not in contention to claim that record in the Preakness: “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons was 82 when Bold Ruler won in 1957.
Surrounded by the throng of media Sunday, Sherman grinned as he reflected on California Chrome’s Derby victory, the first by a California-bred horse since Decidedly in 1962.
“It’s pretty cool, I can tell you,” he said. “You wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I just won the Kentucky Derby.’ It’s a dream come true for me. I’ve been in the game for so long. It’s one of those things that is very rare; I never had the big stable or the money people behind me, just mom and pop operations and people that were always good friends.
“I have a lot of partnerships in horses with different people, so it’s a different ballgame for me. Beating all the big boys and maybe they had their doubts that this horse wasn’t a runner – you hear, ‘Oh, he didn’t look good on the track’ – but when you run against him you find out. He’s the real McCoy, this one.”
Alberto Delgado guided Forest Justice to victory in the Sunday opener at Pimlico. The 49-year-old, who finished second in the 1995 Preakness aboard Oliver’s Twist, rode California Chrome to two victories last year. His brother, Willie, is the exercise rider for the Derby winner.
“I haven’t talked to my brother yet,” Delgado said. “It is bittersweet. We knew he was a good horse all along. When I broke his maiden (May 17, 2013), I told them he would win the Derby. That how nice he was. I am happy for the connections. They are really good people. I hope they win the Preakness and the Belmont and think they will.”
(Featured image, of Art Sherman talking with MJC officials, by Mike Kane, Maryland Jockey Club.)