Preakness diary: The cough heard 'round the racing world
MAY 16, 2014 2:04p ET
Art Sherman was 18 years old when he accompanied Swaps in a boxcar from California to Louisville to win the 1955 Kentucky Derby. He returned to Churchill Downs at age 77 and became the oldest trainer to smell the roses when California Chrome prevailed by 1¾ lengths on May 3.
Sherman has agreed to take followers of America's Best Racing along for the ride as his immensely popular California-bred, winner of five consecutive stakes races by a combined 26 lengths, looks to take the next step toward a Triple Crown bid in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Here is the another installment of his Preakness diary, written with Tom Pedulla:
BALTIMORE -- I never imagined a cough could turn into such a big deal. But that is what happened after California Chrome was overheard coughing when he returned from his morning gallop at Pimlico on Thursday.
Word quickly spread and we moved just as quickly to make sure the horse was fine and to assure everyone of that. He has a recurrence of a small blister that we are treating with a throat wash. In human terms, he has a minor throat irritation. He had this before the Derby and, obviously, it did not affect him at all when he rocked at Churchill Downs. I have never been one to look for excuses. I am not about to start now.
For those handicapping this race, do not be discouraged by the slow Derby time of 2:03 3/5. I have never been one to get caught up in the time of a race. Track conditions vary and I think Churchill got slower as the afternoon went on.
Remember, too, that Victor Espinoza eased Chrome once it was obvious the race was decided. He kind of let him prick his ears and start getting disinterested. He got to looking around with all of the crowd and everything.
Chrome is smart enough to know when his job is done; it was over when he opened five lengths on them at the sixteenth pole. Once that happened, I knew Victor had plenty of horse left and there was no chance of catching him. In fact, I thought I could have ridden him those last 70 yards -- and I haven't ridden in a long time.
“I could have ridden him those last 70 yards -- and I haven't ridden in a long time.”
Chrome puts his opponents away the way few horses can. When their jockeys are riding for all they are worth and they are responding with every ounce of energy only to see Chrome draw away with a tremendous burst -- that cuts the heart right out of them.
The start of the Preakness will be critical for us. Chrome has a tendency to rock in the gate. If he should do that, it could cause us to lose a length or two immediately and Victor would have to hustle him into the race, something I would rather avoid. If he breaks cleanly, Victor can let the speed outside of us go and find a pocket where he is able to run freely and cleanly.
Chrome is so push-button that Victor will be able to make whatever adjustments are necessary as the pace dictates. I am anticipating strong fractions. That would be fine with us. It should allow my horse to be in an ideal striking position entering the final turn.
I am not guaranteeing anything. It is horse racing. I will say this: if Chrome runs his race, no one will beat him.