Expect another work of art from Sherman at Del Mar

Jul 25, 2006 1:10 AM

No one could blame Art Sherman for being arm-weary after last year.

The little guy saddled 650 horses, enough to test the strength of a blacksmith. His endurance paid off, however, because at the age of 67, the former jockey enjoyed his best year as a trainer, winning 193 races, nearly 30 percent, with purse earnings of $3,368,732, placing him among the top 30 in the nation.

Not that Sherman didn’t have an enviable resume before 2005. The Brooklyn native came to Southern California in 1953 and went to work for Rex Ellsworth, who won the 1955 Kentucky Derby with the great California-bred, Swaps, and followed that with a surprising victory against Nashua in their storied match race.

Sherman retired from riding in 1978. Two years later, he became a trainer. The world has been his oyster ever since, especially in recent years at the track where the Turf Meets the Surf — bustling Del Mar, the Mardi Gras of race meets.

He expects another banner campaign at the seaside course, which opened last Wednesday and runs 43 days through Sept. 6.

"I’ve got 29 stalls this year," Sherman said. "This is the most horses I’ve had here and I’ve been at Del Mar for many years. The past few seasons we’ve had our best percentage ever, both winning and in the money. They’ve been productive meets."

Sherman makes his home base in the Bay Area, where he constantly butts heads with the Ghengis Khan of Northern California trainers, Jerry Hollendorfer, winner of 32 consecutive titles at Bay Meadows and 27 straight at Golden Gate. Sherman has been runner-up to Hollendorfer six times and has ranked among the top five in the Bay Area at every major meet since 2000.

His big horse at the moment is the crack sprinter Carthage, who already owns a victory over 2005 Eclipse champion Lost In The Fog. Sherman’s Desert Boom got up by a nose to hand male 2-year-old champion of 2004 Declan’s Moon his first loss on closing day at Hollywood Park.

Despite his affinity for the ambiance and atmosphere of Del Mar, Sherman expressed trepidation over its main surface, which has been fair game for criticism in recent years mainly due to an overabundance of traffic. Three horses were euthanized the first three days this meet, prompting a meeting Saturday between horsemen and Del Mar officials to address their concerns.

"Del Mar has always been kind of a rough track on horses in general," Sherman said. "There are so many horses (about 2,500) training over the track and that cuts it up pretty good. But I’m running Carthage in the Bing Crosby on Sunday and the day I claimed him here, he won by five (lengths), so at least I know he likes the course."

By the start of 2008, Sherman, like almost all California trainers, will be faced with running their horses on synthetic surfaces, as mandated by the California Horse Racing Board. He says the jury is still out.

"I have mixed emotions on the synthetic track," Sherman said. "I’ve never raced on it, but I saw Keeneland’s synthetic training track. However, training on it is not the same as racing over it. I’ll have to reserve judgment until I run my horses over it."

Jack Carava has never won a training title at Del Mar, but the 40-year-old Arcadia native expects to continue the modicum of success he’s enjoyed there through the years, even though on July 15 his home base of Santa Anita had its main track shut for maintenance about two weeks.

"I don’t think it had much affect," Carava said. "It was basically nine or 10 days that there was no training on the main track there, and the horses that missed training weren’t likely to be running the first few weeks at Del Mar anyway. If they were going to run the first few weeks at Del Mar, they’re already there.

"Personally, it has no affect on me," he continued. "I was already at Del Mar with my 34 horses before Santa Anita shut its main track. I think Del Mar’s track will be the same as it’s been in past seasons. Obviously, an addition of a training track there would be greatly appreciated, just to reduce training traffic on the main track more than anything. But Del Mar has been one place that’s been lucky for me over the years. I haven’t had injuries there like everybody complains about. I look forward to being here."

The homestretch

”¡ News You Can Bet On: With Pat Valenzuela missing in action for an undetermined period due to recurring back problems, apprentice riders Martin Garcia and Juan Ochoa will dominate the Del Mar jockey standings. Garcia will be the runaway leader. Don’t overlook any horse they ride.

”¡ Multiple Grade I winner Pussycat Doll won’t run at Del Mar. The winner of the La Brea Stakes late last year and the Humana Distaff on Derby day is stabled at Santa Anita. Bob Baffert plans to have the 4-year-old filly ready for a fall campaign.

”¡ He’s 53 years old and recently underwent surgery for diverticulitis, but Louie Anderson remains one of the most naturally funny human beings God ever created.

In a bare bones setting that can only be described as Lincolnesque, his show at the Excalibur produces non-stop laughter.

The comedian’s relaxed, inoffensive style, quick wit, simple yet erudite delivery and accurate choice of words provide 60 minutes of welcome escape from the world’s woes for his loyal audience. Refreshingly, he pulls it off without one word of profanity.