LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Art Sherman has never had a big operation or wealthy clients who infused cash and horses into his stable.
But the 77-year-old trainer can now say he won the Kentucky Derby.
A day after California Chrome raced to a 1¾-length victory as the 5-2 favorite in the Derby, Sherman and his star horse received a stream of visitors at Churchill Downs.
“It’s pretty cool, I can tell you,” he said Sunday. “Beating all the big boys, and maybe they had their doubts that this horse wasn’t a runner, but when you run against him you find out. He’s the real McCoy, this one.”
Now the oldest trainer to win the Derby and his horse are headed to Baltimore for the Preakness in two weeks, the next step on the Triple Crown trail.
It will be Sherman’s first trip to Maryland since 1959, when he was a jockey at the old Bowie Race Course. He rode some races at Laurel during his 23 years in the saddle, but has never visited Pimlico.
Sherman plans to keep California Chrome at Churchill Downs before sending him to Baltimore, possibly on May 12.
“Five days at Pimlico would be perfect for me,” said Sherman, who will briefly return to his Southern California base, where he trains 20 horses. “That way I wouldn’t have to do much with him. Just school him, stand him in the gate and let him get familiarized with the surroundings.”
California Chrome appeared to bounce out of the 19-horse Derby in good order, leaving just a handful of grain in his feed tub after the race. Jockey Victor Espinoza said he eased the colt over the final 70 yards.
“He said he didn’t ask him for too much thinking about saving something for the next one, for the Preakness,” Sherman said, adding that his colt is “peaking now. He’s full of himself.”
Sherman typically likes to give his horses plenty of time off between races, but California Chrome’s owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin thinking big and talking bigger.
They’re not shy about saying their colt has the talent to win the Triple Crown.
“I told people this colt will go down in history,” said Coburn, the more talkative of the partners. “When he wins the Triple Crown, he will be the first California-bred to ever win a Triple Crown. That’s where we’re going.”
Of course, California Chrome will run in the Preakness with a target on him, the competition ripe to try and knock off the Derby champ. Already other horses are lining up to take him on.
Commanding Curve, the Derby runner-up, and seventh-place finisher Ride On Curlin could possibly show up in Baltimore, where the Preakness has a maximum field of 14.
The possible new shooters include Pablo Del Monte, whose owners decided not to run in the Derby; Federico Tesio winner Kid Cruz; Illinois Derby winner Dynamic Impact; Bayern, trained by Bob Baffert; and Social Inclusion, who ran third in the Wood Memorial.
Like his trainer, California Chrome typically stays close to home. The colt made his first trip out of state to run in the Derby. Sherman built a low-key but respected training operation first in the San Francisco Bay area and now in the Los Angeles area, but rarely travels outside the state to race.
Still, he and his horse impressed some of racing’s big-name trainers.
“I thought he reflected Art Sherman,” trainer Steve Asmussen said about California Chrome. “He wasn’t overwhelmed by the situation, did what he did and went about his business as usual and looked like a winner every step of the race. I would expect him to be able to be in the best shape in two weeks.”