Trainer Art Sherman, who burst into the public conscience when he guided California Chrome to the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, announced he will retire at the end of this year. The 84-year-old conditioner told Blood-Horse he plans to travel the country with his wife and do some bloodstock work.
His current string of horses will go to his sons: Steve and Alan. Steve trains in Northern California, while Alan’s barn is in Kentucky. That includes one of California Chrome’s sons: Chasing Alchemy.
“About eight women own about 10 percent of him,” Sherman told Blood-Horse. “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.”
Indeed he was – and is. “Chromies” became the name for California Chrome’s legions of fans, flocking to his races at Santa Anita and elsewhere. What California Chrome pulled off in the winter and spring of 2014 captivated not only the racing world, but the sporting world.
Sherman had shadows to escape
The journey started when Perry Martin, California Chrome’s majority owner, asked Steve Sherman to recommend a trainer who could get his colt to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle. Sherman suggested his dad, who trained in the considerable Southern California shadow of Bob Baffert, Doug O’Neill, Richard Mandella, John Shirreffs, John Sadler and others.
Art Sherman took California Chrome, who came from Lucky Pulpit and Love the Chase, who ended her career running in an $8,000 claiming race. This was the perfect horse for a trainer who worked as an exercise rider for 1955 Derby winner Swaps – but didn’t sniff Churchill Downs the first week in May.
California Chrome started slow, winning two of his first six races. He won a minor stakes at Hollywood Park the end of his 2-year-old campaign. That kick-started everything.
Chrome’s 2014 made him Horse of the Year
From there, Sherman and California Chrome went on the ride of their lives. They won six consecutive races, including three Grade 1s: the Santa Anita Derby, the Derby and Preakness. The first four wins in that streak came by a combined 24 ¼ lengths. It prompted a $6 million offer to buy the colt before the Santa Anita Derby – one that required jettisoning Sherman. Co-owner Steve Coburn turned it down.
California Chrome won the Derby by 1 ¾ lengths and the Preakness by 1 ½, complete with 105 Beyer Speed Figure. At 77, Sherman became the oldest trainer to win the Derby. The Triple Crown run ended with a dead-heat for fourth in the Belmont after Matterhorn stepped on California Chrome’s heel coming out of the gate.
By now, the affable, self-deprecating Sherman was as big a rock star as his charge. He told Blood-Horse “This horse is my California rock star. I’m just his manager.”
Sherman, Chrome a remarkable duo
Sherman “managed” California Chrome to 16 wins in 27 starts, including the 2016 Pacific Classic, Dubai World Cup and Awesome Again Stakes. He banked a then-record $14,752,650.
In between managing a bout with bladder cancer, Sherman won 2,261 races in a career that began in 1979. He conditioned four other Grade 1 winners: Siren Lure, Ultra Blend, Lang Field and Haimish Hy. Sherman’s horses won more than $45.3 million.
This year, however, Sherman’s trips to gates have been sparse. He’s saddled only 39 horses, going 2-2-3 for earnings of $121,780, according to Equibase.