Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

After 59 years, Art Sherman returns to Kentucky Derby with favored California Chrome

When a horse gets to a big race without encountering any problems, the backstretch lingo is "not a straw in his path." In 1955, on the way to his first Kentucky Derby, young Art Sherman was covered with straw on a four-day journey from California.

Sherman rode in a railroad car from Los Angeles to Louisville with future Hall of Famer Swaps. Rank has its privileges, even between species, so the 3-year-old colt had first choice over the 18-year-old exercise rider about where they would sleep in the piled hay. Ah, the clacking of steel wheels and the smell of horse manure as you greet the dawn.

"Oh, yes, that was the good old days. It was me and the groom, the two of us in a sleeping bag, and Swaps on one side," the jovial Sherman said recently. "He was such a cool horse that I never thought about him ever trying to roll over or do anything. He was a kick to be around. He didn't have a mean part in his body.

"He reminds me so much of my horse, his demeanor. They're people kind of horses."

Sherman was referring to California Chrome, the heavy favorite for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Fifty-nine years later, after training more than 2,100 winners since 1979, the 77-year-old finally returns to America's most famous race, hopeful his leggy chestnut colt can emulate Swaps.

California Chrome, 6-for-10 with earnings of $1,134,850, is undefeated and unchallenged since December, dominating four stakes by a combined 241/4 lengths for jockey Victor Espinoza.

"It's been a great experience," Sherman said. "A young horse comes to you and you have no idea he'll become the horse he is right now. I've never gotten so much publicity in my life."

Sherman said California Chrome's 51/4-length runaway April 5 in the Santa Anita Derby made the former jockey consider a comeback. "I haven't been on a horse in at least 10 years," he said, "but I told Victor that if he keeps winning by that far, I might take my license back out."

California Chrome was foaled in Coalinga in the San Joaquin Valley, an area known for producing fruits and vegetables, not Derby favorites. His owners are self-proclaimed "simple working-class folk," Steve Coburn and Perry Martin of DAP Racing.

Coburn works for a company that makes magnetic strips for credit cards and ID cards. Martin's field is consumer security. They bought Love the Chase for $8,000, paid a measly $2,500 to mate her with Lucky Pulpit, and out came California Chrome. Coburn said they recently rejected a $6 million offer for 51 percent of the first horse they bred.

"I had a dream about this colt two weeks before he was born," Coburn said. "I told my wife, 'It's going to be a colt. He's going to be flashy with four white stocking feet and a big bald face,' and his baby pictures look just like that. I told them he was going to be something special."

Besides predicting victory in the Derby, Coburn text-messaged Sherman a list of four races he targeted, and the colt swept them. Destiny also decreed that Derby Day shall be Coburn's 61st birthday. Whoa, now that's eerie.

Comments
Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Out early: Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions.The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 at...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

Lightning’s Hedman a Norris finalist again

The Lightning's Victor Hedman is a finalist for the second consecutive year for the Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the league. The other two finalists are Drew Doughty of the Kings and P.K. Subban of the Predators, it was announced Thu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

Turns out, Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready for the playoffs

TAMPA — The second period was not even four minutes old Wednesday night when Devils right wing Patrick Maroon skated all alone toward Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was a moment that could turn a game and even a series.A goal and the score would be tie...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘Lightning is going to win the Stanley Cup’

Former UCF and Lakewood High standout Shaquem Griffin understandably has been focused on the NFL draft next week in Arlington, Tex., where he is projected as a potential second-day pick.But the Lightning's playoff run  hasn't escaped his attenti...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a broken ankle he sustained in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in jeopardy.General manager Jason Licht said Beckw...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

For the first time since its season commenced, the USF baseball team enters a weekend as the Bulls' feature sports attraction.Basketball ended last month, and spring football ended last Saturday, meaning would-be baseball fans no longer have reason t...
Updated: 8 hours ago
The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Mallex Smith has style.Effervescent personality. Pop culture hipness. Sense of fashion with accoutrements.Now the Rays are going to find out if he has game.More specifically, enough game to be a front-line outfielder, even an i...
Updated: 8 hours ago
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Plant alumnus Rex Culpepper doing well in second chemo round at Syracuse

Plant alumnus Rex Culpepper doing well in second chemo round at Syracuse

Former Plant High quarterback Rex Culpepper recently started his second round of chemotherapy but is doing well and should return to football eventually, his college coach said Thursday morning."He's doing really good," Syracuse coach Dino Babers sai...
Updated: 10 hours ago