When California Chrome began collecting adoring fans, he couldn’t have had a better trainer than Art Sherman, who has announced that he will retire from training at the end of the year. Not only did Sherman do a magnificent job training the flashy chestnut to win two-thirds of the Triple Crown and a host of other major races, he always had time to talk to the horse’s fans.
The Chromies, as the fans are called, have stayed so involved, in fact, that Sherman owns a 2-year-old son of California Chrome named Chasing Alchemy in a partnership that includes some fans. The juvenile is twice unplaced.
“About eight women own about 10% of him,” said Sherman. “They’re all Chromies, and they have a lot of fun. They meet all the time. Every Saturday they’re at the barn. ‘Chrome’ is such a popular horse. I still get all kinds of letters. He’s been a people’s horse.”
Upon retirement, Sherman, 84, will probably send the horses he currently trains to his two sons, Steve, who has a stable in Northern California, and Alan, who is training in Kentucky. That will allow Art and Faye, his wife of almost 62 years, the time to travel, and Art said that he also plans to do a little bloodstock work. He added that he is feeling great, continuing to be cancer-free following a bout with bladder cancer a while back.
“I got a lot of people I know all over the country,” he said. “I’ve never been to Ruidoso [Downs]. I’ve got a friend who used to own a piece of ‘Chrome,’ and he’s been inviting me every year. That’s on my bucket list — to go for the All-American Futurity.”
Yellowstone Park is another sight that Art and Faye plan to visit. They will also most likely visit Northern California and Kentucky to see their sons and their horses. Their grown grandchildren live around the country, and Art said he and Faye now have two great-grandchildren to visit.
Sherman will always be associated with California Chrome, the son of Lucky Pulpit out of Love the Chase, by Not For Love, bred and owned by Perry Martin and Steve Coburn. As a California-bred colt out of a mare who finished her racing career running for an $8,000 claiming price, California Chrome rose from obscurity to become one of the most popular racehorses in recent times.
Steve Sherman had trained for Martin and Coburn in Northern California, and Art met them there one day in the paddock. They told him about a 2-year-old they were going to send to the races.
“I said fine — I had no idea it was California Chrome,” Art said. “And they were kidding, saying, ‘We’ve got the next Kentucky Derby winner.’ I said, ‘I hope you’re right because I’d really like to have a Kentucky Derby winner.’ The minute the horse came over, I liked the way he went.”
California Chrome did indeed become the next Kentucky Derby winner in 2014. He added that year’s Preakness Stakes, along with such other races as the 2016 Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline and $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic Stakes. California Chrome ultimately earned $14,752,650.
Sherman has been around many other good horses besides California Chrome, however, first as an exercise rider and jockey and then as a trainer. He rode for trainer Mesh Tenney in the 1950s and often exercised another popular California-bred — Swaps.
“I worked him a few times,” said Sherman. “I breezed him, and he went a mile in 1:34 one time. He came back and broke the track record in 1:33 and change. He was a super horse.”
Sherman traveled to Churchill Downs when Swaps won the 1955 Kentucky Derby, and when he returned with California Chrome, Sherman became the oldest trainer ever to win the race. Age 77 at the time, Sherman replaced Charlie Whittingham, who had saddled Sunday Silence to win the 1989 Derby at age 76.
Siren Lure became Sherman’s first Grade 1 winner when he captured the 2006 Triple Bend Invitational Handicap at Hollywood Park. Sherman had claimed Siren Lure for $50,000 the previous year at Bay Meadows for owners Stuart Kesselman and Tony and Marilyn Melkonian.
Sherman has trained such other winners as 2011 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes winner Ultra Blend, 2010 Hollywood Derby winner Haimish Hy, 2007 Citation Handicap winner Lang Field, and 1994 Del Mar Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap winner Lykatill Hil.
Through Nov. 24, Sherman has trained 2,261 winners with his horses earning more than $45.3 million.
Cal-bred Ultra Blend was another bargain Sherman developed.
“We bought her in a package deal for $16,000,” he said.
Racing for Nels Erickson and trained by both Steve and Art, Ultra Blend earned $1,015,646 and sold to Katsumi Yoshida of Japan for $700,000 at The November Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s premier breeding stock sale in Lexington, in 2011.
Born in New York, Sherman moved with his family to Southern California at age 7 and later attended Whittier High School. He recalls winning a race in Maryland as a jockey, with the trophy presented by then-Vice President Richard Nixon, who also attended Whittier High School. Sherman got to reminisce with Nixon about the school after the race.
“He loved horse racing,” Sherman said. “Anybody who liked horse racing was a friend of mine. It was pretty cool.”
As a trainer, Sherman’s clients have included Dr. Ed Allred, who owns Los Alamitos Race Course. That track’s next Thoroughbred meet runs from Dec. 3-12, and a celebration of Sherman’s career is being planned for some time during that meeting, possibly Dec. 10.