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California Chrome deemed healthy for Preakness

By Steve Ginsburg

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome was given a clean bill of health for Saturday's Preakness Stakes after being treated for a cough and blister in his throat.

Art Sherman, the Kentucky Derby champion's trainer, said the blister was not a cause for concern for the California-bred Preakness favorite.

"It's not a big deal, as long as their blood comes back good and they eat up everything. It's just something that horses do have," Sherman told reporters on Friday.

"If you scope a lot of horses after a race you're going to see all kinds of little stuff going on. None of them are really perfect.

"Going a mile and a quarter (in the Kentucky Derby), if you scope them afterward, you'll see dirt down their throats. It's just imperative when you race horses."

California Chrome, a heavy 3-5 early line favorite for Saturday's $1.5 million Preakness, coughed after training Thursday morning and was examined by Sherman's veterinarian. The chestnut had a small blister in his throat, similar to the one he had at the Derby in Louisville, Sherman said.

Blood tests were done after the Derby and the colt's airway was scoped. Those exams showed that California Chrome was healthy, according to Sherman Racing spokeswoman Alexis Garske, adding that the colt has neither been scoped nor had his blood tested this week in Maryland.

Revelations about the blister reappearing in the Triple Crown hopeful created a stir but Sherman's son and assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, said the issue was "blown out of proportion."

"California Chrome is fine. His throat is fine. He had a little tickle," he said, adding that the horse is being treated with a glycerin throat wash.

California Chrome, who has won all four of his races this year in dominating fashion, went to the Pimlico track shortly after 6 a.m. ET (1000 GMT) Friday and galloped two miles in the rain.

"I thought he looked good," Art Sherman said. "When you run a 3-5 shot, you've got a lot more pressure on you knowing you're going to be the favorite, but I think we can handle it."

Lightly raced Social Inclusion, third in the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct last month, is the second early line choice at 5-1, while Bob Baffert-trained Derby Trial runner-up Bayern and Ride On Curlin are the co-third favorite at 10-1.

Ride On Curlin finished seventh in the Derby two weeks ago with Calvin Borel in the saddle and trainer "Bronco" Billy Gowan switched to Joel Rosario for the Preakness.

"The Derby didn't take much out of him," said Gowan. "He's given me all the signs he wants to run. I don't think it's that big a deal, coming back in two weeks.

"It seems like he's getting stronger all the time. He hasn't lost any weight and he’s getting stronger and tougher all the time. I was pretty confident in the last race. I feel the same here."

If California Chrome can win the Preakness and go on to claim the Belmont Stakes on June 7 in New York, he would become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

(Reporting By Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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