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Kentucky Derby: Art Sherman only person who knew how good California Chrome was

California Chrome ready to race
California Chrome ready to race

Seventy-seven year old trainer Art Sherman was probably the only person in America who knew California Chrome had the talent to win the Kentucky Derby when he advised his owners to fork over $10,000 a few years ago to purchase the unknown horse. In a sport where the wealthy usually spend millions of dollars to buy the top-rated colts in the country, only Sherman was wise enough to advise his people to plunk down a few thousand dollars to purchase the direct descendant of Swaps.

What a bargain basement price for a Kentucky Derby winner! But the low value placed on the chestnut colt by the so-called "experts" only shows how brilliant Sherman's advice was to his owners who didn't have the deep pockets required to buy a more highly-prized horse at the time.

Sherman didn't make a lucky guess when he suggested his people take a close look at Saturday's Derby winner. No, Sherman was smart enough to trace Chrome's lineage all the way back to Swaps who won the Kentucky Derby in 1955. As Sherman said, "Chrome is a direct descendant of Swaps."

Swaps did a lot more than just win the Derby. He later won a dramatic match race against the other wonder horse of his era Nashua and at one time held six world records. How did all the other racehorse insiders miss out on Chrome? Did they just not bother to check his lineage back that far?

Sherman wasn't going to miss out on the horse which inherited the great Swaps racing genes. He was actually the exercise rider at age 18 for Swaps when one of the greatest thoroughbreds of history swept to his Derby win. Sherman rode in a boxcar on a train with the remarkable horse to Churchill Downs.

Swaps was also a California horse.

Sherman's secret was out after Chrome won a dazzling victory at the Santa Anita Derby. Someone offered owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin $6 million after that win on April 5. That would be a tempting offer to many people. But the owners resisted temptation.

The friendly Sherman said he thought "10 million might be too cheap" for the horse following the dominating Kentucky Derby victory. Winning the Kentucky Derby earns a prize of $1.4 million. But Sherman discussed Sunday how a lot more money than that can be made from a breeding stallion.

The Californian told USA Today that, "If you could ever win these big races, for a stallion prospect, you know he could be worth $30 million when you really think about it., what they get in stud fees, and have a full breeding book for the next 10-15 years."

Coburn and Martin shelled out only $8,000 to buy a mare named Love the Chase and another $2,000 stud fee to breed her with Lucky Pulpit, whose name proved prophetic. How lucky can you get? In this case incredibly.

But Coburn gave Sherman all the credit in the aftermath of the race Saturday, saying his trainer checked out Lucky Pulpit's bloodlines before the deal was done. In retrospect, Sherman looks like a genius. Because nobody else on the planet earth analyzed the incredibly powerful bloodlines of this superhorse as accurately as Sherman did.

The remains of Swaps can be found in the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs. Sherman said he went to the great champion's grave before the race and prayed for his descendant to do well in the Derby. The circle has now come full since Sherman rode with Swaps in a boxcar to the 1955 Derby.

Anybody want to win a Kentucky Derby? Talk to the brilliant Art Sherman.

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