Sherman plans to let California Chrome relax at Pimlico on Monday and then transport him to New York by van Tuesday. He'll apparently travel with Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin.
Even without the nasal strip fracas, the Belmont shapes up as the most difficult challenge of California Chrome's career. He has established himself as the class of this 3-year-old crop. But in New York, refreshed old foes will line up to take him on like monsters springing back to life in a horror film.
Among the possible challengers are Commanding Curve, Danza and Wicked Strong, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively, at the Kentucky Derby. All skipped the Preakness, meaning they would run on five weeks' rest in the Belmont.
Repeat entrants from the Preakness could include Ride On Curlin, third-place finisher Social Inclusion and eighth-place finisher Kid Cruz. All are waiting for fatigue or bad luck to catch up to California Chrome, who stands undefeated as a 3-year-old and has pulled away rather easily from every field he's faced.
He wouldn't be the first horse to look unassailable in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, then falter in the Belmont. Since Affirmed took the last Triple Crown in 1978, a dozen have won the first two legs only to fall short in New York.
If anything, in 2008 Big Brown looked even more dominant than California Chrome. But he essentially gave up midrace in the Belmont.
Others, such as Smarty Jones in 2004 and Silver Charm in 1997, came agonizingly close in second-place finishes.
Talk this year has centered on the very nature of the Triple Crown series. With many trainers now skipping the Preakness so they'll have fresh horses in the Belmont, some industry leaders — including Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas — have called for a more extended Triple Crown schedule.
Chuckas says he'd like to see the Kentucky Derby run in early May, the Preakness held in early June and the Belmont run in early July. He has promised to discuss reform with his counterparts in Kentucky and New York.
Though some traditionalists say schedule changes would destroy the meaning of the Triple Crown, California Chrome's connections are on board.
After the Preakness, Coburn said horses who don't run in the Kentucky Derby should not be eligible for the subsequent two races.
"There are people out there trying to upset the apple cart," he said. "They don't want a Triple Crown winner. They want a paycheck."
Sherman endorsed Chuckas' idea for a revised schedule, saying it would encourage more horses to run in all three races.
"You'd have a lot more Derby horses that try it," he said. "To me, if you're going for the Triple Crown, go for the Triple Crown. Don't pick your spots."
Any change won't come in time to help his horse. But Sherman sounds plenty confident in California Chrome heading into the Belmont. He sees the greater distance as little problem.
"I have a good feeling about it," Sherman said. "I'm really confident going into this race. Watching him run yesterday after two weeks and showing the courage he had, they better have their running shoes on. I don't care how many fresh shooters they have there. He's the real McCoy."