The Kentucky Derby winner's arrival at Pimlico is like the arrival of royalty.
From 60 to 75 people, many with cameras, waited near the stakes barn to see Derby winner California Chrome, who had traveled from Churchill Downs to Pimlico on Monday with several other horses. Four police motorcycles, their lights flashing, led three horse vans into the barn area. The police had provided an escort for the vans from the airport.
Fittingly, California Chrome was the first horse off the first van to unload. As is his habit, he backed off the van. "He doesn't like to go forwards out of it,'' said Alan Sherman, assistant to his father, trainer Art Sherman. "I have no idea why he doesn't like to walk out front, but he likes to back out for some reason.'
California Chrome whinnied, then turned around and calmly walked away from the van. Halfway toward the stakes barn, he stopped and stood quietly, giving photographers ample opportunity to see his handsome chestnut coat and do their work. He seemed to know that they had come mainly to see him.
"I think he loves it,'' Alan Sherman said. "He'll sit out there and pose all day. He loves the cameras and the attention.''
The questions that people affiliated with California Chrome will hear all week from reporters started flowing. Because Art Sherman isn't expected to arrive in town until Tuesday afternoon, Alan was the spokesman for the day.
How is he doing? How are you doing? Will he handle the track? Why did you come today? What about the opposition? Will there be lots of pace? What about coming back in two weeks? What if it's an off track?
Here are a few answers of note from Alan Sherman.
"I'm not scared. I'm just excited. It's quite the experience. We haven't been through anything like this before.''
''I haven't read the (Daily Racing) Form or anything, but I pretty much know the horses. It looks like there's going to be quite a bit of speed in the race. ... It looks like on paper it looks like there'll be more speed in the race, but I thought that for the Derby, too.''
"Doing great. I just hope he takes to the track. He hasn't had to take his track with him so far. It's all looking pretty good right now.''
"The first couple days he gallops wherever I've sent him. He kind of looks around a lot the first two days, and then he starts getting his game face on and training a little bit harder, so I wanted to get him here a couple of days before.''
The questions will keep coming, and Art Sherman, exercise rider William Delgado, owners Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, and jockey Victor Espinoza will get their chances to answer.
It all goes with the territory of being with a Derby winner at Pimlico to run in the Preakness. It's territory that everyone in racing wants to enter.
''It's an awesome feeling having a horse of this caliber,'' Alan Sherman said. "It's the first time we've had a horse this good, so we're enjoying the ride.''
Meanwhile, people affiliated with the other Preakness horses will be talking about why those horses can beat California Chrome this time.
Bill Gowan, trainer of Ride On Curlin, said a rough trip and a lack of pace in the Derby contributed to that colt's seventh-place finish. Ride On Curlin handled the flight Monday with no problems, Gowan said, and he's looking for a smooth run Saturday.
"Nothing rattles this horse,'' Gowan said. "Nothing. Hopefully we get a clean trip and see what he's really made of. I think he's a pretty good horse.''
The Preakness is five days away. Will California Chrome remain on his pedestal, or will another horse knock him off?
Questions, scenarios, theories and rumors will be flying all week, and the people around every horse will have chances to comment. On Saturday, the horses will supply the only answers that matter.