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SHERMAN ENJOYING THE BIG STAGE
Published:May 14, 2014
Before he won the Kentucky Derby almost two weeks ago, trainer Art Sherman hadn’t gotten this much publicity since his days as a rider in Maryland. That was 55 years ago.
Sherman, then 22, posed in the winner’s circle after winning the Barbara Fritchie Handicap aboard Tinkalero at old Bowie Race Course on March 7, 1959. His photo made national news.
It wasn’t because of the jockey, or the horse. Presenting Sherman the trophy was then-Vice President Richard Nixon, who brought his daughter, Tricia, to the track for her 13thbirthday. Joining them was FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, a frequent visitor to Bowie.
Ironically both Sherman and Nixon attended Whittier High School in California, though nearly 30 years apart. Newspaper accounts from the day called it a “high school reunion in the winner’s circle.”
Now 77, Sherman – who also rode for a time at Laurel Park – has not been back to Maryland since his Bowie days more than a half-century ago. It hasn’t taken him long settle in.
“It’s been really good. I’m getting to where I enjoy it,” Sherman said. “I like the food. I’ve got a driver, which is a plus. If I want to have my little martini after, I don’t have to worry about a designated driver.”
The Brooklyn-born, California-based Sherman spent his first morning at Pimlico Race Course on Wednesday, after arriving on the backstretch at mid-Tuesday afternoon. He watched his Derby winner, California Chrome, gallop over the main track before stepping to the microphone to address the media.
On Saturday, California Chrome will attempt to make the 139thPreakness his sixth consecutive victory. The last horse to win the Derby and Preakness was I’ll Have Another in 2012, trained by another Californian, Doug O’Neill.
I’ll Have Another never got his shot to run for the Triple Crown. The day before the Belmont Stakes, he was scratched with a tendon in his left foreleg and retired.
“I was always rooting for Doug O’Neill’s horse when he ran,” Sherman said. “He ran two dynamite races and here comes the Belmont, and he bows. I said, ‘Wow, what a disaster that is.’ If it’s fate for me to win these types of races, believe me, I’m all for it.”
The son of a barber who moved to the West Coast in 1944, Sherman became a jockey in 1953 after one of his father’s customers suggested his smaller stature would suit riding horses. He won more than 2,000 races before retiring in 1978 and turned to training.
Sherman has won nearly 2,200 races and $39 million in purses since 1980, capturing his first Grade 1 stakes with Siren Lure in the 1986 Triple Bend Handicap. Since then, he has added five more Grade 1 wins, including the Santa Anita Derby in March and Kentucky Derby.
Post positions will be drawn early this evening for the Preakness. When asked which one he’d prefer in the prospective 10-horse field, Sherman didn’t hesitate.
“Five’s been my lucky number right now, so I’m hanging in there,” he said. “Santa Anita Derby. Kentucky Derby. If I get the five, I’ll be delighted.”
Sherman was a teenage exercise rider for trainer Rex Ellsworth when Swaps won the 1955 Kentucky Derby, traveling by train with the horse to Louisville. Swaps did not run in the Preakness.
Having been successful in his return to Kentucky with California Chrome, Sherman is hoping for similar luck in his return to Baltimore.
“The horse doesn’t have much to prove, other than the Triple Crown. What a challenge that will be,” Sherman said. “To win the Kentucky Derby is to win the race that every trainer wants to win. Now, we’re coming into the Preakness with all its history. I would love to win this race. Since I rode here in Maryland and everything, I would feel really delighted if I could win a race like the Preakness.”