Updated: Friday, 30 May 2014 05:29 | By Agence France-Presse

Triple Crown contender 'Chrome' checks out Belmont

California Chrome, vying to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to capture US racing's Triple Crown, galloped at Belmont Park on Thursday and was schooled in the paddock.

Triple Crown contender 'Chrome' checks out Belmont

Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, with exercise rider Willie Delgado up, and lead by assistant trainer Alan Sherman, walks back to his barn at Belmont Park on May 27, 2014 in Elmont, New York - by Al Bello

"We don't do a lot of schooling in the afternoon, hardly at all," said Alan Sherman, who assists his father, trainer Art Sherman.

"We always school in the morning. It's just something we do. Whether it's right or wrong, I don't know. It's just the way we do it.

"I just don't like to interrupt his feeding, his dinner. I'd just as soon in the morning. We'll do it a couple more times throughout the week."

Owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, the 3-year-old winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes arrived at Belmont's paddock shortly after 6 am.

He walked around a bit then spent several minutes standing in a saddling enclosure.

California Chrome, who again will be ridden by Victor Espinoza in the June 7 Belmont Stakes, put in another two-mile gallop.

"He pretty much goes at his own pace," said Alan Sherman. "Like, you see him the first time around, he's real easy, and then he hits the half-mile pole and starts to pull on (exercise rider) Willie (Delgado) pretty good.

"Today he was pulling on him a little more than usual."

Delgado had said Wednesday that the chestnut colt, who has been training well at Belmont since last week, was energized by cooler weather rin new York.

He echoed Alan Sherman's observation that the colt has recovered superbly from his triumph in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 17, which came two weeks after his Kentucky Derby victory.

Three more weeks will have passed when he tackles the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, the third jewel in the Triple Crown -- a treble that only 11 horses have mastered.

"When he pulled up, he wasn't breathing hard enough to blow out a match," exercise rider Delgado said after Wednesday's gallop. "Fitness-wise, he's fine. He's gained weight and he's sharper than he was before the Derby.

"He didn't like the track at Churchill, but he liked Pimlico and he loves this one."

California Chrome is scheduled for a Saturday morning workout under jockey Victor Espinoza, while on Friday he will school at the starting gate.

California Chrome is likely to face nine challengers in the Belmont Stakes on June 7 with the possibility of 10.

Those expected to challenge him are Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve, Commissioner, Matterhorn, Matuszak, Medal Count, Ride On Curlin, Samraat, Tonalist and Wicked Strong.

Kid Cruz is listed as a possible entry by Belmont Park stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.

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