Pregame meal rituals are common among athletes. Peyton Manning eats chicken and pasta before every game, and LeBron James is noted for his salmon and grilled pineapple meals. But the biggest sports star of this weekend is happiest when he can down a half-dozen cookies the day before the big event.
Sometime on Friday, Steve Coburn and his wife, Carol, will walk into the paddocks at Belmont Park with a six-ounce bag of Mrs. Pastures Cookies for Horses. They will walk toward California Chrome and instantly the horse will perk up. Coburn says his horse knows what is coming.
A horse that will race on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes in front of 100,000 people with the hopes of winning the Triple Crown gets downright giddy for a treat.
"He's excited because he gets to see me and my wife," Coburn told Yahoo Sports. "When he sees the two of us together, he knows he's getting some cookies. People say horses are dumb. I don't think so. I don't think he is; he's actually quite smart.
"He knows when he sees Carol and I together, he recognizes that he will have cookies. Then he knows the next day, he will get to race."
The tradition goes that Coburn will feed California Chrome roughly six cookies the day before a race and then the day after he runs he will let him finish off the bag. He won't let his prized 3-year old have the whole bag before the race, though, because he doesn't want to disrupt his diet.
It will be early evening on Saturday when California Chrome enters the gate in the pursuit of history. It has been 36 years since this sport has seen a Triple Crown winner, as the expectation builds each time a horse comes this close to history. The cookies are a treat for California Chrome, but don't get the idea that this is a luxury or even a cheat meal. These cookies are a relatively healthy snack for the Triple Crown hopeful. The cookies are from a producer in northern California and are made of molasses, oats, barley and apple bits. Coburn likened them to a granola bar and said that they are the only cookie that California Chrome will eat.
Bring something else nearby and chances are he won't do more than sniff at them.
And apparently, they're good for humans, too, Coburn says.
"I've had them, too,” Coburn said with a laugh. “I gave them to some cameramen once. They're good."