He is a rock star and, yes, he does know it. California Chrome, the colt who was bred, foaled and spent much of his first year at Harris Farms in Coalinga, won the Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness Stakes and was just two lengths from becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years in the Belmont Stakes, is back "home."
Does he know just how much of a thrill he gave a nation of followers wishing and willing horse racing history?
Dave McGlothlin, the general manager of the Horse Division at Harris Farms, chuckled a bit at the question as he followed the 3-year-old colt back to the barn the other day.
California Chrome might not know the numbers -- some $3.5 million in purse money won. But he smelled the roses and heard the thunderous crowds and all of that.
"Oh," McGlothlin said, with a wry smile, "he knows."
Right now, though, California Chrome is more like a teenager home for summer after his first year of college. "He can eat as many Twinkies as he wants," McGlothlin joked.
From New York, California Chrome went back to Southern California and spent about 12 days at Los Alamitos, where he trained leading up to the Derby. He has been back at Harris Farms for a week and a half now, settling in for some serious R&R.
He eats. He sleeps. Life is not much more complicated than that. On Friday, he kicked around a bit in a paddock on the 320 acres on the farm, soaking up some sunshine before retiring back to the barn for a bath.
That will be the daily routine for the next four or five weeks, resting up for a fall campaign with a target on the Breeder's Cup at Santa Anita in November.
"No exercise, just whatever he wants to do while he's out as long as he doesn't overdo it," McGlothlin said. "If he gets a little too active or animated then we'll slow down on him; maybe we won't give him as much time out. I think he'll handle all of that. But it's nice to have the rock star back home and get to see him. It's certainly a nice reminder for everybody of what happens when you do what you're supposed to do the right way and everything comes together."
It is a well-deserved break, and the crew at Harris Farms wants to keep everything as easy as possible.
The cut on his right front hoof suffered when coming out of the starting gate in the Belmont has healed nicely. He has acclimated to the familiar but new surrounds at Harris Farms, and geared down from a long time in training and on the race track. Every day Harris Farms receives 20 to 30 phone calls or emails from fans wanting to see the horse who made a run at history (only 11 horses in history have won the Triple Crown) despite his modest breeding, but they have yet to entertain any visitors.
Now, it is time to rest, said Harris Farms trainer Per Antonsen, who is overseeing the daily care of California Chrome.
"We're going to give him a nice little vacation, make sure he's eating good and relaxing, make sure everything is 100%," he said.
Before the Kentucky Derby, the chestnut colt with the big white blaze and four white socks had been in training for more than a year, making his first start as a 2-year-old in April and running in 10 races. Of the 19 horses that ran in the Derby, only one had started racing as early as June and none had run in as many races as California Chrome.
Soon enough, he will be back at it again. California Chrome will be taken by van back to the barn of trainer Art Sherman at Los Alamitos toward the end of July, off and running.
"We're just going to keep doing what we're doing right now with him -- go out to the pasture, bring him in at night, feed him and give him baths and groom him and all that stuff," Antonsen said. "We're just going to try to keep him as happy and relaxed as we can.
"He'll think he's in Hawaii. He's here to relax and we'll make sure he's doing fine, that he's enjoying his stay here. We accommodate him real well -- five star. I don't think he could ask for any more."
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