Art Sherman knows what it takes to get a horse to the Kentucky Derby and win. He had a close-up view as an 18-year-old workout rider when Swaps won the 1955 Run for the Roses. Nearly 60 years later, Sherman is taking his own colt to Louisville as the early Derby favorite.
California Chrome romped to a 5-1/4-length victory in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, a race Swaps won by a half-length before he went on to Kentucky Derby glory.
Like Swaps, California Chrome is a California-bred chestnut.
“He’s my Swaps,” said Sherman, now a 77-year-old trainer assisted by his son Alan. “I’m very humbled to have a horse like this.”
Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome ran 1-1/8 miles in 1:47.52. He paid $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10 as the 3-5 favorite of 35,241.
California Chrome has won his last four races by a combined 24-1/4 lengths for Sherman, a former jockey who has been in racing for 50 years but has never had a horse as good as this one.
“Right now, he’s kind of freaky and I’m enjoying it,” Sherman said. “I can’t believe the races I’ve been seeing.”
Rebel Stakes winner Hoppertunity returned $4 and $2.60, while Robert Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy was another 3-1/2 lengths back in third and paid $2.40.
“Candy Boy ran a super race,” jockey Gary Stevens said. “I think my horse will continue to improve.”
California Chrome earned 100 points for the victory, giving him 150 to move atop the leaderboard in the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the 20-horse field for the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
Hoppertunity, trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, earned 40 points and now has 95, putting him sixth in the standings.
Candy Boy earned 20 points and moved into 16th place with 30 points total.
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