Triple Crown contender California Chrome worked in company with an opposum at Belmont Park main track on Friday morning, an unexpected incident that did not faze the chestnut colt as he galloped under exercise rider Willie Delgado.
The opposum can be spotted at the 1:43 mark on the YouTube video titled “California Chrome gallops at Belmont Park May 23.”
Another horse working closer to the outside rail veered slightly away from the opposum, while the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner went about his business.
“We have coyotes on the track at Los Alamitos, [so] it was no big deal,” said Alan Sherman, assistant to his father, Art Sherman. “The track was a little heavier than it was yesterday, but he seemed to handle it fine.”
Actually, opposums aren’t necessarily welcome guests at horse tracks. The marsupial is known to carry the parasite that causes equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), a disease of the horse’s central nervous system.
Alan Sherman said California Chrome likely will school in the paddock once or twice next week, and also school in the starting gate, as part of his preparations for the 1 1⁄2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Fostering a superstition born on the first stop of the Triple Crown, Belmont Park presented the connections of California Chrome with two saddlecloths upon his arrival — one bearing the proper spelling of the colt’s name and one deliberately misspelled “Califorina Chrome”.
The tradition started when Churchill Downs accidentally misprinted California Chrome’s name on the saddlecloth for his Kentucky Derby preparations. Not to jinx things, Pimlico followed suit in the run-up to the Preakness.
The misspelled Belmont saddlecloth will be autographed and donated for auction to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
WISE DAN RECOVERING
Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan came through last weekend’s emergency colic surgery without any complications, left the hospital on Wednesday and is recovering at trainer Charlie LoPresti’s barn in Lexington, Ky.
LoPresti said that if all goes well, Wise Dan could be back breezing by July, just in time to get back to the races at Saratoga, where he’s won the Fourstardave the last two years.
STRONG MANDATE RETIRED
Strong Mandate, winner of last summer’s Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga, has been retired after sustaining a chip in his right knee.
Winless in three 2014 starts, his last race was an eighth in the Arkansas Derby in April.
The Friends of Sanford Stud Farm will hold a Horse Tales & Cocktails fundraiser at the Sanford broodmare barn in Amsterdam at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 13.
There will be a special ceremony unveiling the new plaque signifying inclusion of the remaining Sanford buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Guest donation of $40 includes dinner buffet and facility tours. Michael Veitch will be the guest speaker.
RSVP by June 2 to Linda Gates at 848-3000 or Sam Hildebrandt at 361-4431.
SARATOGA JOB FAIR
NYRA will host a three-day job fair for those interested in working at Saratoga Race Course during the 2014 meet, which will run for 40 days from Friday, July 18 through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 1.
Opportunities are available for: security, white caps (ushers), parking attendants, utility workers, turf work and general labor, retail clerks, hosts/hostesses, waitstaff, bartenders, cooks, prep cooks, food service helpers, cashiers, porters and barbacks, food service supervisors, counter clerks, pari-mutuel betting clerks, and giveaway helpers (part-time only).
Interviews will be held at the Carousel near the East Avenue Gate from 2-6 p.m. on Thursday, June 12 and Friday, June 13; and from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, June 14.
For more information, contact the Saratoga Employment Line by phone at (212) 973-3602 or email at ForumNYRA@forumgrp.-com.
WEST POINT SHARE
Among the auction items available at the fourth annual Music & Mingling fundraiser for the Adult & Senior Center of Saratoga on Thursday will be a 2.5 percent share in a West Point Thoroughbreds 2-year-old colt.
The benefit event will be held from 7-10 p.m. at the Saratoga Polo Field. Tickets are priced from $125 and cover an open bar, food catered by the Olde Daley Inn, music by Grand Central Station and cigar tastings.