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Veteran Horse Trainer Sets Sights On Triple Crown


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And Melissa Block. It was a chestnut colt with four white stockings and a white blaze down his face who surged in the final stretch to triumph in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

LARRY COLLMUS: It is California Chrome in front and from the back of the pack on the outside Commanding Curve has taken second, but California Chrome shines bright in the Kentucky Derby.

BLOCK: That's Larry Collmus with the call and now the question is, can this colt become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years. California Chrome's trainer is 77-year-old Art Sherman. He became the oldest trainer ever to win the Kentucky Derby and he joins me now from the race course in Los Alamitos, California, where he stables and trains about 15 horses. Mr. Sherman, congratulations. Thanks so much for being with us.

ART SHERMAN: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: And I know you've trained a lot of horses over the years. What's so special about this one?

SHERMAN: Well, you know, once in a while you get a horse that's a star and he is one, you know. He's just something special. They don't come around very often, but when they do show up, you got to be awful thankful.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Sherman, you were a jockey for a long time, 23 years, before you became a trainer. Did you imagine yourself riding California Chrome as you watched him win with jockey Victor Espinoza on?

SHERMAN: I sure did. I told my wife, I turned over, I says, now I can take him. It's the last 70 yards. I'm ready.

BLOCK: Put me in, right?

SHERMAN: Yeah, put me in as the substitute.

BLOCK: So you could feel it, really, you could...

SHERMAN: I really did. It was very emotional, you know. You have 164,000 people screaming and hollering. It's the wildest thing I ever been through.

BLOCK: What do you know as a jockey, do you think, that guides you as a trainer?

SHERMAN: Well, I think having the experience of being on a horse, it's different. You know, it's old school and learning and watching people prepare horses and I think it helped me over the years. It really did.

BLOCK: Is it a special point of pride for you, Mr. Sherman, that you are now the oldest trainer to win the Derby?

SHERMAN: You know what? I had a laugh when they said that. At least I can say I have one little mark that might be there for while. That was pretty cool.

BLOCK: Yeah. I've read something you said, which is that you have to let a horse tell you what he needs to do and I wonder what California Chrome tells you, what that conversation is like.

SHERMAN: Well, it's just demeanor and, you know, he's not a horse that you can press all the time. He's got so much natural ability, I like to keep him fresh into these races because, you know, they're so close together, you know. I'm not usually that type of a trainer. I don't like to run horses back in two weeks like I have to do in the Pimlico race coming up, the Preakness.

It's close for me.

BLOCK: Are you worried about that, that short break time?

SHERMAN: Well, you're always worried about it, you know what I mean. It's a different pattern I'm coming into now and I just think, though, he's got enough ability and class to respond to about anything, you know what I mean. I went over all my vet after the race and his knees and ankles were cold and he ate up every bit of his food that night, which is a good sign.

And we hung a jug of vitamins in him and he just perked up. Like, my son called me early this morning and said he just dragged him around the barn, walking him, so that was a good sign, you know.

BLOCK: What's your plan for the next couple weeks, leading up to the Preakness. What do you do?

SHERMAN: Just light train. Once I get over to Pimlico, I'll stand him in the gate, take him around by the paddock and just have fun with him, you know. He's a cool horse to play with. He likes to stand and just look at everything. He's a very inquisitive horse.

BLOCK: Mr. Sherman, do you let yourself imagine California Chrome as a Triple Crown winner or do you just - can you just go there? Does that just really...

SHERMAN: I can't go there. You know, I'm race by race. I let the owners do all that.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Sherman, again, congratulations to you and to California Chrome and to the jockey and owners, too. All the best to you.

SHERMAN: I appreciate that. Thank you.

BLOCK: That's Art Sherman who, at 77, became the oldest trainer ever to win the Kentucky Derby this past weekend with California Chrome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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