NEW YORK (Reuters) - California Chrome on Wednesday took his first steps on to the Belmont race course that could lead him to a place in American horse racing immortality.
Under the guidance of his regular exercise rider Willie Delgado, the Triple Crown contender went on a leisurely jog around the dirt track.
The three year-old showed no ill-effects from his back to back wins in this month’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes as he prepares for his chance to become just the 12th horse to complete the elusive treble.
“He actually surprised me, how good he was feeling this morning,” his assistant trainer Alan Sherman told reporters.
”It’s amazing how quick this horse is bouncing back off these big races he’s running.
“He was dragging me around the shed row, he dragged Willie around the track today. He was really feeling good.”
Sherman said California Chrome would start light galloping on Thursday and would only have one serious workout, next week, before the $1.5 million Belmont on June 7.
It has been 36 years since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 and the final leg is the longest and most exhausting of the three races, held over a mile and a half (2400 meters).
California Chrome is the 13th horse since Affirmed to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Twelve of those were beaten in the Belmont while the most recent, I’ll Have Another, withdrew from the last leg with an injury.
Delgado said California Chrome felt better each time he got on board him and he had no doubts the flashy chestnut colt would handle the longer distance.
“After each race he has gotten much stronger. It’s crazy because I have never seen a horse like that,” Delgado said.
”That shows you how fit he is. We don’t have to do anything special, just maintain him. He knows what he’s here for.
“He’s an athlete, he’s a professional. I don’t see a problem with him getting a mile and a half, or winning it.”
Reporting by Julian Linden, editing by Gene Cherry