Jewish Trainer’s Horse Wins Preakness

May 22, 2014
BY Heather Norris
Art Sherman, who trained Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, has been involved in horse racing for more than 60 years. (David Stuck)

Art Sherman, who trained Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, has been involved in horse racing for more than 60 years. (David Stuck)

Long before he trained the horse that won the famed Kentucky Derby earlier this month and Preakness this past weekend, Art Sherman was just another student at Hebrew school in suburban Los Angeles.

“It was a little different in that era,” said Sherman, 77, who dropped out before his bar mitzvah after a case of mistaken identity resulted in his getting whacked on the head with a ruler by the morah.

“I got up and never did go back,” Sherman said, laughing.

Today, what began more than 60 years ago as a half-joking suggestion that Sherman become a jockey has landed him in the history books as the oldest trainer to ever saddle the winner of the Derby.

“I was always on the small side,” said Sherman, trainer of California Chrome, which took the top spot on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Horse races were always on the TVs at his father’s barbershop, said Sherman, and some of the clients told him, “Gee, you’re little enough to be a jockey.” So Sherman decided to give it a shot.

“It was great,” he said of his first experiences riding at a ranch in Ontario, Calif., where he worked as a stable hand before becoming an
exercise rider.

After spending some time breaking in young horses, Sherman, a native of Brooklyn, eventually moved up to racing.

“[Racing] is a different ballgame,” said Sherman, who had to learn to get along with the much more high-strung horses, many of which weighed 1,200 or more pounds.

He was a jockey for 23 years, during which time he won some races but said he existed mostly “under the radar.” He retired from being a jockey with a win in his last race and, after winning his very first race as a trainer, became hooked on prepping the horses for the track.

In addition to his high-profile win, Sherman enjoyed his time in Baltimore by sampling local food. Though he loves traditional Jewish food — “I call it soul food,” he said he was especially looking forward to eating some of the local delicacies.

With a Preakness win for California Chrome, the horse is just one win away from claiming the Triple Crown.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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