Culver City Observer -

California Chrome Gets Ready For Pegasus

Chrome According To Dihigi Gladney - Part 1

 

January 19, 2017

Fred Altieri

Exercise rider Dihigi Gladney and California Chrome

Dihigi Gladney Interview - Part 1

In Autumn 2015 Dihigi Gladney was blessed by the horse gods. He was employed by trainer Art Sherman as the exercise rider for California Chrome, one of the world's great athletes over the past four years. The celebrated thoroughbred with cult status is preparing for this Satuday's inaugural running of The Pegasus Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida.

This is part one in a short series with Dihigi Gladney as he gives his final thoughts on working with California Chrome over the past 16 months. Coincidentally, with one race remaining in the chestnut's illustrious career, the past year has been perhaps his greatest run.

Gladney's streaming insight into Chrome is matched by his skill on the track, the camaraderie with his fellow riders and his charismatic style around the barns. And like Chrome, California is his identifying signature that gives him that extra touch.

Gladney: "Chrome worked yesterday (Saturday, January 21) so he gets a day off. He hand-walked today. Tomorrow he'll jog. Tuesday he'll go back to galloping. He'll gallop every day this week except Saturday.

Saturday morning he'll go out for a jog because that's race day. He always jogs the morning of the race. He'll do his regular routine up until then. So he'll jog Monday and he'll jog Saturday. But in between those days he'll gallop.

We try not to take him off anything he's doing at home. We stick to the same plan. Even though we're three hours early here we still get up at the same time. We'll take him out at the same time, which is 5:30 in the morning. Chrome has adapted to the time and so have I. So everything has been working pretty good.

Chrome only trains on an empty track on Saturday morning when he works. At 5:10 he goes out by himself. But all other mornings he's out there with other horses. They normally shut the track down when he works. We don't want anything to happen to him.

If a horse breaks down or gets loose it alters my work so everything gets ruined. We do the best to take him out when nobody's there on the track. They give us enough time to get out there. The people agree to it, don't complain and let us go first.

He's adapted very well to Florida. It's been a good move so far to bring him out here early. He's enjoyed it, that's for sure. The weather was a little windy and rainy at first but lately it's been real good. It's like one of those bright sunny California days. No wind blowing. No humidity. Just really good hot weather, bright and clear and pretty.

We're at Gulfstream. This is where Chrome's going to run. So this is where we train him. This surface is a little sandier than most. The tracks in California, you're going to have more dirt than anything. I think they keep the tracks here in Florida a bit sandier because of the climate.

This track holds water pretty good. It rained here heavily one day and we went out there and the track was just awesome. No complaints from me. With a horse like Chrome I'm not complaining about the track anyway. This horse gets over anything you put him on. He doesn't care if he's running on crushed glass. He just likes to run.

Last week he worked a minute and change. The track was a little heavy but he got over the surface good. No complaints from me. It was a little deep but you can't always have everything right when you want it. You don't know how the track is going to play on race day.

I don't want to make an excuse that the track was this, the track was that. I haven't complained one time since I got on this horse. There's no reason to complain. Knock on wood. Everything is going good. We're moving forward with him. His work yesterday showed that he had an awesome workout.

Sometimes when we don't race for a while we'll let him cruise for a couple of weeks. Anytime there's a race coming up I kind of press him a little bit. But I also train him when I gallop him different of certain races and certain distances. When I think we need to go a longer distance I might add another furlong or so more to his training than we normally would.

When I think we have a shorter distance I back him up a little more on his gallop. It just shows us that Chrome's durable. He'll do whatever we want him to do.

We go over a lot of stuff together. When I talk to Art (Sherman, Chrome's trainer), when I talk to Alan (trainer, Art Sherman's son) we figure out how the race is going to set up, how far the distance is. That determines how he gallops.

But Chrome is Chrome. I don't care what you do to him, you're not going to completely anchor him down and make him slow down. He likes to train. He wants to gallop to where he's comfortable. I never bother him. That's all I'm doing is keeping him out of the way of harm.

The one thing to remember is the jockey doesn't get on the horse everyday. Not thoroughbred jockeys, anyway. Quarter horse jockeys are different. Those guys gallop, work their horses, ride and race them. Quarter horse jockeys learn of their horses more than thoroughbred jockeys do because they spend so much time on them. They do everything.

I started at Los Alamitos so I know about galloping. I know about working my own horse, doing everything. That's where that work ethic comes in. Victor doesn't get a chance to feel this horse as much as I do so it is my job to make sure everything is on "go" when Victor gets on him.

You never want your jockey to feel like he's not comfortable at all. But Victor (Espinoza, Chrome's jockey) and I do communicate weeks going into the race. We talk here and there when I see him at Santa Anita Park or somewhere with my ponies. Just so we know we still have a connection and that we're definitely on the same page with Chrome.

Distance plays its part. But Chrome has been so fresh in every race. When I say fresh, the way he leaves the gates now is unbelievable. He breaks on top and he likes to stay on top. So Victor is able to dictate what type of pace he wants to stick once he leaves those gates.

If you look back we've had the "one hole" quite a few times for Chrome and people thought we were in a bad spot. I never once thought we were in a bad spot anytime we drew the "one hole" because I get on him everyday. I was very confident in the way he was training.

Hey, you've got to have confidence. If I don't feel good the whole team doesn't feel good. That negativity, we never think about it. With a horse like Chrome you can't do anything but think positive.

Animals feed off of people. They learn your moves, they know when you're upset, the way you talk to them, your tone of voice. And Chrome knows it, too. Like I tell people: nobody's perfect but I never bring my problems to work.

If I show up and I'm mad by the time I get off that freeway and into that parking lot, I'm ready to get on the horses and I forget about why I'm mad.

My job is to come here and get on horses and keep them safe, to get us around that track safe. Come back and communicate with my trainer so we know what we need to do to improve what we've done.

I started getting on Chrome in September, October 2015. And I've been on him ever since. So I've been on him for over a year. Not to knock the other exercise riders but when you look back this has probably been his best year.

But you have to take into consideration that with those exercise riders Chrome almost won a Triple Crown. Those guys made him who he is now and made him be California Chrome before I started getting on him. So my hat's off to that whole early connection.

For me personally, this past year has been great. Not just for me but for my family, for friends not just at the race track but everybody that knows me and has been involved with me since Day One. People that watched me as a kid riding horses and working the pony rides for my grand dad.

When you get a horse like Chrome and you get somebody like me with a big mouth, everybody feels connected. And it's a great feeling. Our first week here we were galloping and people came out just to see him jog.

Last week when he got ready for work I could not believe the crowds that this horse had drawn that morning just to see him breeze (working at moderate speed) you would have thought that it was Opening Day and they were giving away California Chrome, plus ponies.

There were so many people here just to see this horse breeze last week and there were just as many people here yesterday. His first was Saturday before last and his last was yesterday on Saturday. When people come to see him breeze the numbers are phenomenal. Just to come and see one horse on the track...

Fred Altieri

Dihigi and Chrome: training at Los Alamitos Race Course

I do think Chrome knows he's getting close to race day because of everything we're doing with him, the preparation that he's going through. He's the type of horse that knows on Saturday morning when we're at home that he's working and not galloping, just because he's the only horse out there.

So when I bring him on that track and I back him up and I turn him around and jog him off and start galloping him, a lot of people are there kicking it. We get ready to go by the wire, he starts his momentum and picks it up because he knows he's going to work. He loves to work. He wants to stretch his legs.

I really think he really knows that we're getting close. He hasn't pinpointed the date but you can believe me: this is our final week with him. He will be on his toes because he knows anytime it's showtime and he sees more cameras around him, he loves to be the show. And buddy, he puts a show on."

 

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