Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome boarded a van at Churchill Downs at 10:17 a.m. (EDT) Monday for the first leg of his journey to Pimlico to headline Saturday's 139th Preakness Stakes. Accompanied by Preakness candidates Ride On Curlin and General a Rod, California Chrome rode by van from Louisville to Lexington, Kentucky, where he boarded a flight bound for Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The Derby winner and his traveling companions arrived at BWI at 1:46 p.m. and received a Baltimore City Police escort to Pimlico. California Chrome, riding in one van, reached the historic racetrack at 3:12 p.m., and Ride On Curlin and General a Rod arrived soon afterward on another van.
Earlier Monday morning, the trio all turned in routine gallops at Churchill before embarking on their journey.
Owned by breeders Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome completed the Churchill Downs portion of his training by galloping 1 1/4 miles with Willie Delgado aboard.
"Everything is perfect. I couldn't ask for anything more," said Alan Sherman, assistant trainer to his father Art Sherman, of the colt's stay in Louisville following his victory in the Run for the Roses. "He lost a little weight after the race but put it all back on quickly."
Once stepping onto the grounds at Pimlico, California Chrome took up residence in Stall 40 in the Preakness Stakes Barn, the traditional home of Derby winners during their sojourn.
Sherman, whose father returned to Southern California a couple days after the Kentucky Derby to tend to the rest of his stable based at Los Alamitos, commented on the shipping experience and the colt's grand arrival before a throng of photographers.
"Everything went great," the assistant trainer said. "He just stood there. He loved getting his picture taken."
Alan Sherman said he'd send the Derby winner to the track Tuesday at 6:45 a.m. but is undecided whether he'll jog or have a light gallop.
"I haven't made up my mind. We'll see how he eats up tonight," said Sherman, who reported that California Chrome would not have another workout leading up to the Preakness. "He's fit. I'm not worried about him being fit."
Sherman expressed no qualms about bringing back California Chrome in the Preakness on just two weeks' rest.
"I'm not scared, I'm just excited," he said. "It's quite the experience. We've never gone through anything like this before."
Regular rider Victor Espinoza, who turned the 2002 Derby/Preakness double with War Emblem, has the return mount at Pimlico.
...and settles into Stall 40, the traditional home of the Derby winner (Courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club via Twitter)Daniel Dougherty's Ride On Curlin had galloped an easy 1 1/8 miles shortly after the Churchill track opened Monday with Bryan Beccia aboard.
Trainer Billy Gowan was pleased with the Kentucky-based preparation for the Preakness for Ride On Curlin, who will be ridden Saturday by Joel Rosario.
"Everything has been perfect; just like we drew it up," Gowan said. "When he gets there, he may school in the paddock one day but won't go to the gate. He'll gallop tomorrow and maybe work a bit Wednesday."
Later, after arriving at Pimlico, Gowan was pleased with how the travel day went.
"He shipped good," the trainer said after 10 or 15 trips around the shedrow of the Preakness Stakes Barn with Ride On Curlin. "He's got a good mind; nothing much bothers him. I rode on the plane with him and in the van with him. It was good. We got a police escort, so we didn't have to stop."
Gowan said he'll take the colt out for a gallop over the Pimlico surface Tuesday morning at about 8:30 a.m.
Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod likewise had an uneventful ship.
"The trip was no problem, everything was very good," said Joel Berrenlos, exercise rider for General a Rod, who will be stabled in Barn D. "He looks good and he's ready to go to work, so we're hoping for the best."
General a Rod took his plane and van ride in stride as well(Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)Like his shipmates, General a Rod galloped Monday morning before departing Churchill Downs, to the satisfaction of trainer Mike Maker.
"He's doing good; everything's fine," said Maker, who was slated to arrive in Baltimore Monday evening to saddle his first Preakness starter.
Maker said that there were two primary factors that led the connections to run back in two weeks after an 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
"He came out of his race good and it's the Preakness," Maker said. "It's the second leg of the Triple Crown. If you've got a good horse, you want to be in it."
General a Rod started from post 8 in the Kentucky Derby but was unable to utilize his normal tactical speed and get position. Once he was shuffled back to 16th through the first turn, he was never able to mount a serious threat to California Chrome.
"The distance wasn't a concern," Maker said. "He's run at a mile and an eighth (in the Florida Derby), too."
General a Rod's last win came at a mile, but he was second in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and a close-up third in the Florida Derby. As he did in the Kentucky Derby, General a Rod will run in the silks of Jim Shircliff, the largest investor in Skychai Racing.
Keeneland-based Pablo Del Monte was to hop on the same flight with California Chrome, but trainer Wesley Ward changed his mind. He decided to return to his original plan, which was to ship from Kentucky to Baltimore on Wednesday's charter flight.
Ward said Sunday that he would ship the colt on Monday because the flight would originate from the Lexington, Kentucky, airport, which is just a couple miles from his barn at Keeneland. He reversed himself on Monday, though, and notified Tex Sutton officials that his homebred colt would not leave until Wednesday.
Early Monday morning, California Chrome galloped over the Churchill track, as did shipmates Ride On Curlin and General a Rod (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer)"I got thinking about it," Ward said, "and my horse is just thriving right now at Keeneland. With the direct flight on Wednesday I just thought, 'let me leave him right where he's at.' I generally like to ship in right on top of the races when I go to England and France and thought I would stick with the original plan and train him right there at Keeneland, where he has trained his whole life, then ship a couple of days out and run."
Jockey Jeffrey Sanchez will ride the colt in the Preakness Stakes. Sanchez was aboard for Pablo Del Monte's six-furlong breeze in 1:12 1/5 Saturday at Keeneland.
Rounding out Monday's scheduled arrivals is Belmont Park-based Kid Cruz. The Private Terms and Federico Tesio winner galloped and was schooled at the gate for the second day in a row at Belmont ahead of his van ride to Pimlico that would arrive between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, according to trainer Linda Rice.
Owned by Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable, Kid Cruz will be one of seven non-Kentucky Derby starters in Saturday's expected field of 10 for the 139th Preakness. At least four of the competitors have shown an affinity for early speed while Kid Cruz is a well documented closer.
"It certainly can't hurt," Rice said. "In his two previous races (Tesio and Private Terms), there's been no pace at all and he's managed to close into it. These are much faster horses, though. Hopefully he can catch them."
Kid Cruz was especially impressive in winning the nine-furlong Private Terms at Laurel in his first stakes start on March 8. Sitting dead last in a field of 10 in the backstretch, the son of Lemon Drop Kid passed the entire field under jockey Julian Pimentel and won by four lengths. The margin was 3 1/2 lengths in the Tesio at Pimlico on April 19.
Rice will attempt to become the first female trainer to win the middle jewel of the Triple Crown and is already set to make history as part of the race's first edition to include a female trainer, jockey (Rosie Napravnik on Bayern) and horse (Ria Antonia). Unaware of that scenario, Rice said she's more focused on the race itself.
Rice paused for a few seconds, then laughed. "I'm still rooting for Kid Cruz," she said.
Pimentel, who rode in both stakes wins, will be aboard the former claimer for the third time on Saturday.