LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Everybody today is talking about California Chrome owner Steve Coburn. He called the winners of the Belmont Stakes, and anybody who ran in the Belmont without running in the Preakness or Kentucky Derby “cowards” and “cheaters.”
You’ll see his face all over ESPN. He was splashed across the New York Post under the headline, “Triple Clown.” Fewer people today are going to talk about Art Sherman. California Chrome’s 77-year-old trainer showed up at his colt’s barn this morning, and did exactly what you would expect an old horseman to do.
He showed how someone is supposed to act when he loses. You’re going to see and read a lot about the more flamboyant Coburn in the coming days. I thought it was important, however, that you also read what Sherman said, so I’ve included most of his remarks here.
He first talked about his horse’s condition.
“He had a big chunk of his quarter taken out,” Sherman said. “He did that in the first jump. I have a still picture of the No. 3 horse coming over and hitting his right front and taking a big chunk out of it. But, you know, if that’s the only thing — I can heal that up in about 2-3 weeks. And then we’ll stop on him for about six or seven weeks and give him some pasture time. So Chrome is going to have some needed rest. It’s been a tough campaign for him.”
Sherman was candid without making excuses. He said his horse got pinned inside and couldn’t get to his preferred position of stalking horses outside the leaders. But as an old rider, he also said that the jockeys in the race did exactly what they were supposed to do.
“Victor tried to get him out, and they were pushing him down in there and he had no racing room,” Sherman said. “But hey, listen, the horse has had six straight races and had perfect trips. You know, sometimes in this game when you do have a bad trip, that’s part of it. Racing luck means a lot. Being a former rider, I know that. . . .
“You can’t blame the jocks, they know he’s the horse to beat. You know you’re going to have one of them trips. Everyone wants to win the Belmont. He didn’t have a great trip. Hey, listen, we’ll be here to fight another day. I’m just happy he’s all in one piece. It was kind of scary. You come back and see your horse bleeding from the foot, he’s never had anything wrong with him, we’ve been awful fortunate. But I’m sure we’ll have this under hand.”
In fact, after watching the head-on replay of the race, Sherman said he felt fortunate that California Chrome didn’t sustain a more serious injury.
“Well, it (the first contact) was up by his tendon,” Sherman said. “That’s what scared me the most. But it wasn’t deep, it was superficial. God, that’s the worst thing that can happen to a horse is you hit his tendon. We got lucky there and it just went down to the bottom of his foot, down by his pastern.”
As to how the injury may have affected his colt, Sherman said he’s seen a range of reaction to such injuries.
“It couldn’t have helped him any,” Sherman said. “. . . I rode for a lot of years and I saw horses that stumbled real bad and took a quarter out and you can feel it under you, you can feel them getting a little tender the last 70 yards. I watched him the last 70 yards (Saturday) and he didn’t have that kick, so something was bugging him, but I didn’t know what. I didn’t think he’d get tired, because he’s been running. I didn’t want to make an excuse. But he only got beat a couple of lengths and wasn’t himself, you know what I mean? I just think this is one of the races that we couldn’t win, but he didn’t disgrace us. He still laid the body down.”
Sherman said he doesn’t think, given the racing patterns of today’s horses, the Triple Crown is likely to happen. He said he’d be fine with a change in the rules to allow more time between the races, but noted that tradition is a powerful thing, and that he doesn’t expect anything to happen soon.
He did not share Coburn’s criticism of other trainers and owners. Asked about Coburn’s “cheaters” comment to Yahoo! Sports, Sherman said, “I don’t do that. I can’t make excuses. . . . He’ll probably make a pretty good apology for that, I would think. In the heat of the moment — it’s not really what you should do in these type of races.”
Sherman added, “Listen, the horses aren’t cowards and the people aren’t cowards. I think (Coburn’s comment) was a little out of text, myself. But you know, it was in the heat of the moment. And don’t forget he’s a fairly new owner. Sometimes the emotions get in front of you. He hasn’t been in the game long, hasn’t had any bad luck.”
Sherman said California Chrome would return to the West coast, would heal up from his injury the next several weeks and spend a month or so resting. He said he hoped to set him back on a course for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall, but noted he likely wouldn’t be returning to the East coast.
As for Sherman, he said he hasn’t changed.
“Same old Art,” he said. “Got up, put my boots on, and I’m here. To me, being around the horses is my life. Although I did win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, I never did that before. When I get home, it’ll be good. I’m kind of their star over at Los Alamitos.”
His star showed pretty brightly on this side of the country, too. His son, Alan, it should be noted, provided the bulk of the work as the Triple Crown process wore on. Art Sherman is a great story, and amid a weekend of controversy, proved an adept ambassador of his team, and his sport.
Before leaving, he looked out at reporters and said, “It’s been a great run. I appreciate what you guys have been. Everybody has a job to do, and like myself, you try to do the best job you can. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you get beat. That’s just what it is. You can’t be a hero all the time. I appreciate everybody. Thanks.”
Those aren’t the kind of comments that make for big headlines. But they should.