Kentucky Derby notes: California Chrome gets first taste of Churchill track

awincze@herald-leader.comApril 29, 2014 

— The golden boy from the Golden State made his first appearance on the Churchill Downs track Tuesday.

About 6:50 a.m., Grade I winner and expected Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome emerged from Barn 20 for a light jog beneath the Twin Spires, trailed by the ample crowd that has become commonplace since a sublime victory in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5, when he won by more than five lengths.

Later Tuesday morning, California Chrome's affable trainer, Art Sherman, told the media throng about how the flashy chestnut colt has settled in and how he has gone from off the board in three of his first six starts to winning four straight by a combined 241/4 lengths.

"He's feeling awfully good right now, so I'm not surprised to hear he was pulling hard (around the track)," Sherman said. "I've been around a lot of horses and a lot of good ones, and he just has a lot of talent, that's all I can tell you. We haven't went to the bottom of him yet. (Jockey) Victor (Espinoza) said, 'I haven't asked this horse to run in his last three races.'"

Sherman added that owners Steven Coburn and Perry Martin turned down an offer of $6 million for 51 percent of the colt after the Santa Anita Derby.

"We need heroes right now and I'm hoping he's one of them," Sherman said.

General a Rod works

Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing's General a Rod worked a half-mile Tuesday in 49.40 seconds in his final major move before the Kentucky Derby.

Working in blinkers under jockey Joel Rosario, General a Rod clocked splits of :12.40, :24.60 and :36.80 with a 5-furlong gallop-out in 1:03.80.

"I never worked him in the morning, and (trainer) Mike (Maker) asked me to be on him, and yeah, just to work for the race,'' said Rosario, who rode General a Rod to a victory in the Gulfstream Park Derby and a third-place finish in the Grade I Florida Derby. "He looked good, steady going the whole way.''

Dance With Fate takes a spin

Having been overshadowed by being on the same plane with California Chrome when the two arrived in Louisville on Monday, Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Dance With Fate made his own impression when he galloped and jogged for the first time over the Churchill track Tuesday.

Dance With Fate has not run on the dirt since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last November. Physically, the colt is one of the more impressive specimens among the Derby contenders and has held his flesh well since his triumph at Keeneland.

"I just want to see that his appetite is good and he stays healthy," trainer Peter Eurton said. "And I want to see if he gets over the track as well as he does at home (in California)."

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: Horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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