It was 1922 and a California-bred 3-year-old colt nobody wanted by the name of Morvich, trained by Ben Block, was sent off as the 6/5 favorite in that year’s Kentucky Derby.
Morvich went wire to wire collecting a purse of $53,000 for his connections – a huge sum of money for a horse to win, especially one that few wanted. As a 2 year old he won all 11 of his starts but did not run a race as a 3 year old till the Kentucky Derby and still was sent off as the favorite.
It would be a long time until another California-bred would win the Kentucky Derby, but the great Swaps came along in 1955 and Bill Shoemaker took him wire to wire, beating the favorite Nashua by 1½ lengths.
Shoemaker almost lost the ride on Swaps as he was hurt in a race at Golden Gate and was in a hospital bed when the doctor told him he would be out of action for at least a month. Somehow he got himself out of that bed and off to Louisville to win the Derby.
When Swaps was shipped to Louisville for the Derby he was bedded down in some hay on a train. Alongside him was his exercise rider, a young 18 year old by the name of Art Sherman. It was the same not-so-young trainer of this year’s California bred California Chrome, a huge winner of the Santa Anita Derby this past Saturday and the probable favorite in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
I can’t imagine any thought like that had ever entered Sherman’s mind when sleeping next to the great Swaps in that train car back in 1955 when beating the great Nashua, the 6/5 favorite who himself was more than six lengths clear of the rest of the field. The winning amount for the connections of Swaps was $108,000.
It will be a ton more for the dapper Art Sherman this year if the racing gods are in his corner.
There was one more California bred to win the Kentucky Derby. In 1962, jockey Bill Hartack rode a gray by the name of Decidedly who won at 8/1, beating the big favorite Ridan who had to settle for the show dough. This was the fastest Derby of them all since the first as the big gray got home in 2:00 2/5.
This year California Chrome will try to become only the fourth California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby, and it couldn’t happen to any better connections than Sherman, his son and the owners – a laid back group of regular guys who go by the name Dumb Ass Partners.
No suits and ties for this group, only beer and betting tickets. We wish them all the luck in the world.
There have been some really great Cal breds in the past. A few that come to mind are Lava Man, Tiznow, Free House, Cavonnier, Bertrando, Best Pal, Snow Chief, Jacklin Klugman, Flying Paster and Ancient Title.
Still, the Kentucky Derby is one tough race to win with 20 probable starters going to the gate. You need a lot of things to go your way, but this looks like the year of years for the little guys.
Baseball update: I was sitting in the book this past Sunday, putting some parlays together. I like to bet the streaks and the day before there were four I was following. All four won and today there were the same four teams plus four more to make a total of eight. Thus, an eight teamer was in order.
I noticed all were going for sweeps with the exception of one. Should I make a parlay that they don’t get the sweeps?
The bottom line is that all eight teams that were on a streak lost and there was no parlay made. So be careful with those Sunday streaks looking for sweeps as it could be an opposite play on the teams that are avoiding the sweep.
Richard Saber, a former director of race and sports at the famed Stardust book, is GamingToday’s horse racing and sports handicapper. Follow Richard on Twitter @SabesBet. Contact Richard at [email protected].