Two hours before California Chrome’s ride for the Triple Crown on Saturday, the only noise in front of the colt’s barn came from a chorus of chirping birds.
Alan Sherman, the assistant trainer and de facto spokesman, cracked open a can of beer as he stood outside for a brief interview.
California Chrome is a 4-5 favorite in the Belmont Stakes. Affirmed carried 3-5 odds when the colt took the Belmont in 1978 and became the last Triple Crown winner.
A television crew’s request to sneak in a quick shot of California Chrome in the barn was rebuffed. Not this close to the race, they were told.
The preparations were finished, the long days of hype almost over.
Warm wind brought the faint smell of hay and, for a few seconds, the far-off sound of cheers from Belmont Park’s grandstands. But the real noise waited for the horse in the barn, the reason the tens of thousands of spectators wore purple, one of the horse’s racing colors, or anything that resembled chrome.
The barn’s green door was rolled shut. Security guards toting bored looks paced around. An empty stroller and half-dozen metal barricades rested outside.
The waiting was almost over.