Transcript of teleconference from Thursday, May 8: “Previewing the Preakness Stakes.” Guests: Owner Ronald Sanchez, Trainer Wesley Ward, Trainer Art Sherman.
Jim Mulvihill: Welcome, everyone, to our annual Preakness Stakes preview. As most of you are aware, it’s been 35 years since our last Triple Crown winner. In that time, we’ve had 12 three year olds that have notched both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness only to fall short in the Belmont, and another seven who managed to win two thirds of the Crown in other combinations; either the Derby and the Belmont, or the Preakness and the Belmont. Yet despite that history, there’s almost always reason for hope during these two weeks preceding the Preakness, and 2014 is no different.
California Chrome is one of the most impressive Kentucky Derby winners we’ve seen during this Triple Crown drought, and frankly, those lining up to face him in Baltimore have yet to demonstrate that they’re capable of anything that could match the favorite’s usual effort. Nonetheless, if you’ve got a good three year old, you only get so many chances to win a Triple Crown race, and you’ve got to take your shot. Don’t forget that just last year only eight horses showed up at Pimlico to face a highly touted Derby winner in Orb, who was odds-on but finished a lackluster fourth behind Oxbow.
Today we’re going to start our call with two horsemen who are looking to score their first Classic wins with talented horses who bypassed the Derby. Owner Ron Sanchez will start the speedy Social Inclusion, who was the beaten favorite in the Wood after two easy wins at Gulf Stream. Trainer Wesley Ward will saddle Pablo Del Monte, third in the Blue Grass and the Hutchinson. Then we’ll leave plenty of time on the back end of this call to speak with the man of the hour, Art Sherman, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner, California Chrome. He’s going to join us about 1:30 Eastern Time.
But first before we get to the guests, some reminders about horse racing on the air between now and Preakness Stakes Day. NBC Sports Network has live coverage of the Black-Eyed Susan from Pimlico on May 16 at 4 p.m. These are all Eastern times. Then on May 17, Preakness coverage kicks off at 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, and then moves to the flagship NBC Network at 4:30. Post time for the 139th Preakness is 6:19 p.m., and bonus post-race coverage which is back to NBC Sports Network at 6:30. The Horse Racing Radio Network is live from Pimlico both days; Black-Eyed Susan Day Stakes coverage from 5 to 7 p.m. on the 16th, and then Preakness Day coverage from 2 to 4, and 5 to 7 on the 17th. That’s on Sirius 93 XM 208 over the air on dozens of affiliates nationwide or online at horseracingradio.net. As we lead up to the Preakness, or really any big race day, we highly recommend “At the Races” with Steve Byk to keep up on all the latest news. Steve’s on 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays, Sirius 93, XM 209, Sirius Online Sports Zone 961, or online thoroughbredracingradionetwork.com.
Now also note that away from the Triple Crown there’s some very important stakes this weekend. The Jockey Club Tour on FOX is at the Belmont Park on Sunday for the Man o’ War, headed by Arlington Million winner, Real Solution; and the Westchester with Palace Malice; and the Ruffian featuring the four year old debut of Dreaming of Julia. That’s this Sunday, 4:30 to 6 on FOX Sports 1.
Now we can move on to our guests. First up we’ve got Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing Stable. He’s the owner of Social Inclusion. Ron’s a native of Venezuela. He works as a financial advisor. Rontos Racing Stable was among the top 100 owners in North America last year by both wins and earnings. They set off quite the buzz when Social Inclusion won his first two starts by more than 17 lengths combined, but then saddled with an outside post in the Wood. Luis Contreras maybe had to use a little too much to get Social Inclusion to the lead going into the first turn. At the quarter pull he looked clear, but then ultimately he got caught in the final sixteenth by Wicked Strong, and they got nosed out for second, which would’ve given them a Kentucky Derby berth; Samraat just caught them at the wire.
Jim Mulvihill: Let’s talk about first your arrival in Baltimore. I know via your Twitter that Social Inclusion got to Pimlico about 5 a.m. this morning. Can you tell us how he shipped and how has he settled into the stakes barn there?
Ron Sanchez: Yes, well, we wanted him to come here yesterday and he arrived 5 a.m. this morning. He’s in good shape; very happy. The weather is very good for him. We checked this morning he was very happy, and it was a nice day and he is just healthy. That’s the main thing.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, let’s talk about his health, because we—you scratched out of the Sir Bear last Saturday with a foot bruise. Can you tell us more about what that—about that issue, and is it completely healed?
Ron Sanchez: Yes, it was a minor issue, and I didn’t want to go in the race because this big race was coming in two weeks. So we scratched and we decided to let him heal and treat him. Now he’s 95% healed, tomorrow he will be good enough to send him out to gallop then Saturday after that. But the horse is doing really great. He doesn’t feel any pain, so that’s good, and he just needs four days of training; light training. We’re going to gallop him Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and breeze him Monday.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. All right, well, I want to ask you about the Wood. It was his stakes debut. He had a tough outside post and then the pace ended up being pretty strong, at least early in the race. What—you know—what did you and Manny learn from that effort, and maybe more importantly, what did Social Inclusion learn from that?
Ron Sanchez: Yes, well it was a learning experience for everyone. You know, we will endure it. You know, we got the worst post, and the horse didn’t break well at all, and then Luis had to rush him a little bit and the horse hung a little wide, but the main thing was the horse learned that they will be faster. It was very disappointing not to be in the Derby, but I think it was better for the horse, because running the horse in the 20-horse field is not what you want for the horse if you want to keep them healthy. So that day we learned that sometimes things happen for a reason and our main goal was coming to the Preakness. I said to everybody in advance, two months ago I said I just want to go to the Wood and then to the Preakness. So now we are here, and we are glad to be here, and we’re going to do the best and we’re going to try hard to beat the Chrome.
Jim Mulvihill: Do you feel a little bit overlooked? I mean everybody was behind you after the big win at Gulf Stream, and then it just suddenly seems like everyone was off the bandwagon after the Wood.
Ron Sanchez: I don’t feel any regret sending him to the Wood. I always do what’s best or what I think is best for the horse, and I thought it was the best for the horse, and, I don’t have any regrets not for selling the horse or anything. This is a horse of a lifetime, and I think the horse showed that he belongs with this group.
Jennie Rees: You watched the Kentucky Derby and what your thoughts were about that, maybe particularly the pace of the race?
Ron Sanchez: Well, I think the pace in the Derby wasn’t that fast and probably if Social Inclusion had run in the Derby he would have taken the lead. In the Preakness, there’s going to be a faster pace, and if we can take the lead we’re going to be in the lead. If we can kind of take the lead, we’re going to stalk the pace close to the speed, and the horse is going to make one move; take the lead and try to win that race.
Jennie Rees: Okay. What did you think of the winner? What did you think of California Chrome?
Ron Sanchez: I think California Chrome is a nice horse; very nice horse. He will need (inaudible) last time in the Derby, but I think we have a chance to beat him. We have a very good chance. Last time his number was 97, and we got beat in New York and we had 99, in Gulfstream Park we had 111, and I mean the worst number that Social Inclusion has is 93, and he’s improving every day. He’s a late foal; and now he’s more mature. I know we have a shot. But I have a lot of respect for California Chrome. He proved that he’s an outstanding horse, and you’ve got to respect that.
Danny Brewer: Do you think Social Inclusion is a better horse after the Wood than he was before because of the experience and seasoning and that type of stuff?
Ron Sanchez: Definitely, definitely. He’s a smart horse and he has more experience. He matured a lot. He just turned three years old last week, and he has been showing us a lot of improvement. He’s not only thinking about the speed, the horse is doing things that shows us he’s improving all the time; every day.
Danny Brewer: What is attractive about the Preakness for you? You said that you wanted the Wood and then the Preakness. Is it because it’s a speed-favoring course, and this horse can run? What is it about it?
Ron Sanchez: Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t want my horse running in a 20-horse field. That’s pretty dangerous for any horse. The Derby, everybody wants to run at the Derby, but when you have a horse with the speed that Social Inclusion has, with probably four or five horses going to the lead somebody can get hurt, like it happened to Wildcat Red. And what I’ve maintained, I (inaudible) explained everything, when we got this horse we said, well, this is a Derby horse, a Triple Crown horse, but I don’t want to rush him. We planned we’ll go to the Wood Memorial and the best race he can compete was the Preakness, because it’s going to be a field of 10 or 12. It’s not a 20-horse field. This horse has the speed. Last year you see Oxbow taking the lead and going wire-to-wire, and that’s what I want this year.
Danny Brewer: So you think that it’s basically made-to-order for your horse?
Ron Sanchez: Yes, yes.
Art Wilson: I was wondering, I’d like to get your opinion, do you think that too much has been made about the fact that the final time in the Derby was so slow and the final quarter was so slow, or is that a legitimate concern do you think?
Ron Sanchez: Well, for me, time doesn’t mean anything. I mean of course there is a lot of people that check the numbers, but the main thing you’ve got to analyze is that horse, he (inaudible) first. Where are the other horses? They were two lengths, three lengths behind. Chrome’s last quarter was slow, but he won—he won, and you’ve got to have respect about that. I think probably in this race, the last quarter will be faster than the Derby. That doesn’t mean that California Chrome can’t run faster. So I have respect for the horse, and I think this field is better than the Derby field. That’s what I think, and now California Chrome has to prove again that he is the best three year old.
Art Wilson: Okay, and also, there was a lot of people who think that this—the Triple Crown with the five week spacing in between the three races is too grueling, and some people would like to see it changed; have more spacing. Are you among those people, or are you a traditionalist who think just leave it the way it is?
Ron Sanchez: Well, I’ve seen all kinds of horses (audio interference) and I think now the breeding has to improve to make horses that can run three races in five weeks. I think if you give the Preakness another week, that’s going to be better for the horses in these times. But if you have a horse that is good enough, it doesn’t matter if you run between two weeks and then three weeks. Let me tell you, Manny Azpurua, my trainer, he’s does do a lot of training. He runs the horses. Sometimes we run a horse three times in a month and the horse improves. You check—this week we brought a horse, Hey Leroy, who is going to run the Dixie Stakes. He has run 10 times this year; four wins, four places. You know, it depends on the horse, because I think the horse can run in this span of time. I think you don’t have to change anything. For me, it’s okay.
Debbie Arrington: Lots of folks with that slow Derby time are saying, well, this isn’t that good a bunch of three year olds. How would you rate this crop of three year olds?
Ron Sanchez: I think this crop has a good group of horses. Maybe they are not the best ones in the last 20 years, but they’re improving, and you’ve got to give them a chance. I think in the Derby field there were like five or six horses that didn’t have the numbers to be there, but it is a 20-horse field and everybody has to get in, and now the Derby point system allows some horses to get in with a third or going in the race twice and get the points. But I think California Chrome is a nice horse. My horse is a nice horse, and Danza, and a couple more that can run. I think there are good ones, and we have to give them time to develop. It’s early.
Debbie Arrington: You mentioned that Social Inclusion is a horse of a lifetime. How long have you been involved with racing, and how many horses do you have?
Ron Sanchez: Well, I’ve been involved for 25 years in horse racing; first in Venezuela. I came here in 2010, and I have horses in New York, Pennsylvania, California, and I have horses in Gulfstream Park. Actually I own 55, 65 horses running. I have a couple like (inaudible) mares and foal. I started back in 2010, I just had one horse that I trained for $60,000; his name was Bull Dozer, and he won like eight races for me. Then after we started building (inaudible) our stable, and the next year I had (inaudible) I just bought her for $20,000. I’ve been so lucky with not expensive horses and have success with them. Now I got Social Inclusion for $60,000 and I think he’s worth a lot more.
Ron Sanchez: Definitely he’s worth a lot then. I mean he was love at first sight. When I saw him the first time I said, this is a Derby horse, this is a Triple Crown horse, and I have no doubt about it. Hopefully this year I’ll have a pretty nice baby, and I hope one or two of them to develop very well and come back next year for the Triple Crown.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, and for Debbie and anyone else looking for more information on Ron and Social Inclusion, Ron did join us for our April 1st call. That transcript is up on NTRA.com, and we had talked more about Social Inclusion throughout the spring as well as a little more about Ron’s background.
Ron, I’ll ask you one more question. I want to talk a little bit about Manny Azpurua. You have a trainer that is older than Art Sherman; he’s 85 years old. You’ve been very loyal to him throughout this. You’ve been telling people that if you were—when the horse was for sale, if they were to buy him that you would insist that Manny keep the horse. Tell us about what you love about Manny and what inspires such loyalty to him?
Ron Sanchez: Well, I’m very proud to be involved with Manny Azpurua, because he’s an old school guy and I love the old school. I’m very proud about Mr. Azpurua and Mr. Sherman. They deserve respect. They know the horse. They speak to the horse, and they can communicate with the horse. I know that. Manny’s a wonderful guy. He’s 85. He’ll still go to the barn every single day at 5 a.m. in the morning, and leaves around noontime. He does things that nobody does. I want to do the best for my horse, and the he is the best for my horse and I will keep him with Manny, because he knows him as much as anyone. I’m very proud of Manny. He was a wonderful trainer when he was training in Venezuela.. Now we came here, everybody respects him. Just ask everybody at the tracks where he runs, and you won’t find a person that says anything bad about him. He uses the old school. We never put chemicals in our horse- just natural medicine; plants, herbs, everything. When the horse needs Lasix he’ll use it, if not, we don’t use that. If you look at my vet bills, you will be surprised. For the whole barn, I paid just $3,000. I have 35 horses with him. I just pay $3,000 monthly for that—for 35 horses. That means a lot for a horseman, and that shows everyone how he works.
Jim Mulvihill: That’s perfect. Well, we appreciate the info, Ron, and wish you a lot of luck in the Preakness. Thanks for joining us today.
Ron Sanchez: Thank you very much, sir.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, that was Ron Sanchez. He is the owner of Social Inclusion.
We’re going to get right to our next guest, and that is Wesley Ward, the trainer of Pablo Del Monte. Ward’s a native of Washington State. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 1984; won riding titles at Aqueduct, Belmont, the Meadowlands. Retired from riding in 1989, was out on his own as a trainer by ’91, and now has more than 1,200 career wins. He’s best known for his success with two year olds, including important stakes wins from Kentucky to Florida to England. He got his first North American Grade 1 win last month when Judy the Beauty took the Madison at Keeneland, and that same day, Pablo Del Monte set the pace in the Blue Grass, and stayed on well for third behind Dance With Fate. He drew into the Kentucky Derby from the also-eligible list, but scratched in favor of waiting for this opportunity in the Preakness.
Wesley, you’re on with Jim Mulvihill in New York. Thanks for being here.
Wesley Ward: Thank you for having me.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, you could’ve run in the Derby. Can you just tell us why you decided to scratch?
Wesley Ward: Well, you know, after conferring with the owners, and, you know, they decided that the—that post 20 would certainly pose a problem, you know, to get all the way over to the fence by the time we hit the first turn, and they just thought it probably would be a little bit too much for the horse to overcome and run his best race.
Jim Mulvihill: So now coming into the Preakness, when you go to the post draw would you rather be inside or outside the favorite?
Wesley Ward: I think I’ll be in front of him. You know, not that it—it would probably be better—Pimlico being a sort of a track that favors inside speed to get a position close to the rail, but that won’t be up to anybody but the luck of the draw.
Jim Mulvihill: Right. Well, now Pablo Del Monte’s been jogging at Keeneland. Can you just tell us about the colt’s current condition; how he looks to you in the mornings? What kind of vibe are you getting?
Wesley Ward: He’s doing great. He really is. You know, I really look forward to this race. You know, five weeks is perfect for me from race to race for any horse, and I think it’s just like perfect spacing. So, you know, he should run his best possible race, and not that we’re not shooting for a Triple Crown winner this year, and I certainly don’t wish anyone any bad racing luck, but, that being said, five weeks against two weeks, you’d certainly want to be in the position that I’m in right now as far as timing-wise.
Jim Mulvihill: Last time out you had Victor Espinoza aboard. I’m pretty sure he’s committed for the Preakness. You got a rider yet?
Wesley Ward: Yes, he stole my rider that guy, didn’t he, old Art? Right now Jeffrey Sanchez has been on the horse in the mornings, and he’s done a lot of work for me over the years. He’s rode some big wins for me, and he’s just a wonderful hard-trying young guy that needs a big chance. He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies a few years back, and I think he’s the guy that I’d like to stay with.
Danny Brewer: The Preakness the last couple years especially has seen two favorite frontrunners from gate to wire. Does that bode well for Pablo Del Monte?
Wesley Ward: Yes, he’s a very fast colt, you know, so certainly the track would probably suit his running style.
Danny Brewer: What did you like about the Blue Grass that kind of told you that he’s ready for something like this?
Wesley Ward: You know, I mean it was kind of a hot, sticky day for the—and the track was where Pablo trains at all of his life, and when it gets to be that type of a hot temperature it doesn’t favor the speed horses. In fact, there was I don’t think any horses that went wire-to-wire that day, and so I thought Pablo was pretty valiant to where he kind of broke his step slow and for his next couple of jumps secured his position in front, and he battled off a lot of worthy challengers the first part of the race and kind of put those guys away, and then unfortunately he couldn’t get the two deep closers that went on to beat him. But he ran a very, very valiant race, and I was very, very proud of him.
Art Wilson: I was interested to get your impressions of what you thought of the Kentucky Derby?
Wesley Ward: I just thought it was a great story, and racing needs a story like that right now. You know, Art Sherman’s been in the game his whole life, and, you know, as everyone is working to try and win the Derby in American racing, for him to finally do it, you know, he’s just a great guy. I actually rode with his boy, Allan, a couple pounds ago for me that is. I’m not sure how long it was for him, but so we go back a long ways, and I just I can’t say enough about that whole family. They’re racetrack people through and through, and they get up every day and to actually have it come through for those guys, especially with a home-bred, I just think that’s fantastic.
Art Wilson: Do you think that there’s been too much made of the slow final time and the slow final portion of the race?
Wesley Ward: You know, that track is kind of tough. Sometimes Churchill, it kind of looks like it’s fast, but, again, just like Keeneland if there’s not enough water on it kind of gets like a sandy beach, so I wouldn’t really put too much forth in that.
Art Wilson: Okay, and finally, a lot of people think that the Triple Crown series with the five week spacing with the three races is too tough and too grueling on the horses, and then there’s some people who say, you know, leave it alone, it’s tradition. Which camp do you belong to?
Wesley Ward: The tradition. You know, I think if you’re going to be a champion this has been Triple Crown winner that’s what makes those types of horses so special and I don’t think they should change it. There’s a lot of horses that fall off right after the first one because they don’t want to go back in two weeks off a defeat, so, you’ll get a new set of challengers just like if Pablo and all of the other horses that didn’t run in the Derby, and if California Chrome is good enough to fend off us and then is given three weeks to the Belmont where it’s another grueling test of an added distance, I think that’s what really, sets the Triple Crown winners apart. I’m rooting for him, although when they get in the gate and they say go, you know, if anybody’s going to beat me I hope it’s him, and if not, I’m hoping I’m the winner.
Debbie Arrington: Your horse he’s been close but not quite there, you know, this year after starting his career so brilliantly last year. Has he matured a lot this spring? Has he—he’s starting to grow up?
Wesley Ward: Yes, he’s beautiful—he’s a liver-colored chestnut. I haven’t trained many that color. He’s just a beautiful sort of a copper penny colored color, and he’s just shining right now, and he’s really getting bigger and stronger. Mentally he’s really come together to where, you know, as the time’s gone on here, and, you know, all the three year olds are—you know—two to three have matured and we’re getting the best of the best that’s one reason why he hasn’t won. But I think he’s bringing it all together mentally, and the first time on the dirt going two turns on the Poly track I think he really built a lot of heart and determination to stick in there and to try really hard, so I’m hopeful that when we get to the Preakness especially if the track’s playing with speed that he’s going to run a very good race.
Debbie Arrington: How would you rate this crop of three year olds?
Wesley Ward: Well, I think it’s a little too early to tell yet, you know? You know, I know that California Chrome he’s on his game right now, and it seems to be every year that’s the case as far as whatever three year old gets good and wins the Derby, he always comes back and runs a big one in the Preakness, so I’m certain he’s going to run a big race. So, you know, only time will tell, and it gets to be the fall of the year and how they mature, and you know, how their form cycle keeps going.
Ray Paulick: Curious on the female family of this horse, you’ve had something to do with the first couple of dams and you’ve bred Pablo Del Monte. How big is your broodmare band? Do you still own her, and what can you say about this horse based on what you’ve seen from the first two dams?
Wesley Ward: Well, first of all, let me tell you, I read you Paulick Report from cover to cover every day; every night when I get home and jump in bed there, so I really like your site that you’ve got. But aside from that, getting to the question, I own about 22 broodmares, and I own just a real small ranch in Ocala; a beautiful small—really, really small place, so to actually have a horse that I bred and raised on my place, foaled right on my place and to get to this point is just unbelievable. It’s whatever breeder or anyone in the game really is proud of and is in the game for.
Ray Paulick: What can you say about the first two dams? You trained both of them. You know, do they have something in their past that makes you think that this horse can get a pretty good distance of ground?
Wesley Ward: No. I’d say from the dam’s side primarily sprinters, but the distance is coming from the sire. His mother was just wicked fast. She was a world record setter at Keeneland when I first ran her, and she was pretty much turf sprinter. Giants Causeway will run all day, so I think that’s where he’s getting to where he can get that distance.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, Wesley, I was thinking more about the decision to bypass the Kentucky Derby, and obviously you and Pablo Del Monte’s owners they’ve had many champions—will have many champions, so they were maybe in a different position, but it’s hard to skip a race like the Kentucky Derby. What does that—for other horses—or for other people who are obsessed with the Derby and have to go in that spot, how does that impact the field for a race like the Preakness, and then further down the line the Belmont with most of them not coming back?
Wesley Ward: Well, you know, I mean I think (audio interference) are very tough for any horse in any race. And the decision to bypass the Derby, you know, when we got in the race and got lucky enough to get a scratch to get into the race I started getting that Derby fever myself, and just like if you own any horse you’re reading the Form and you’ll find if you have an interest in the horse you find a way to win the race; you know, when I look at it on paper. When you back- up and look at all the variables as far as breaking from post 20 and just like I told Mr. Paulick there, you know, getting that far on that distance on that day, it certainly would’ve been a lot to overcome. But, I’m really excited with the spacing, between the Blue Grass to being five weeks that if ever he’s going to get this far, he’s going to get that distance in the Preakness.
Jim Mulvihill: Excellent. Well, Wesley, we’re going to let you go. We appreciate your time, and we wish you luck in the Preakness.
Wesley Ward: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me on.
Jim Mulvihill: It was our pleasure. Wesley Ward, he’s got Pablo Del Monte, who skipped the Kentucky Derby and will show up in the Preakness Stakes a week from this Saturday.
Now we’re going to turn our attention to our final guest, and that, of course, is the Kentucky Derby winning trainer of California Chrome, Art Sherman. In the past month obviously Sherman’s story has become certified racing legend. There was his ride to the 55 Kentucky Derby in a boxcar with Swaps, and then a return trip 58 years later. At 77 he’s now the oldest trainer ever to win a Derby, and not only did he win, California Chrome, he did it quite convincingly; geared down, hopefully with more saved up for the Preakness.
Jim Mulvihill: Now, you said last weekend that you would typically like to give your horses about seven weeks between starts. Obviously that’s not an option going to the Triple Crown. What can you do as a trainer to help your horse rebound from the Derby and then come back 14 days later.
Art Sherman: Well, there’s not really much we can do. You know, my trainer, you know, he went very good this morning. He’s over at Churchill Downs training, and we’ll be shipping Monday to Pimlico. Just keeping him fresh and happy and doing his light—as much training as I can; you know, a lot of jogging, galloping, and schooling. I’ll school him when I get over to Pimlico, and stand him in the gate, and just let him be a horse. You know, if he’s not fit now, he’ll never be fit, you know, and that’s the way I take it.
Jim Mulvihill: All right, and I saw that—I think it was Jennie Rees that you told that California Chrome didn’t necessarily like the track at Churchill, yet he still overcame that and still won convincingly. What does that say about his potential if he takes to the track in Baltimore?
Art Sherman: Well, if he takes to the track in Baltimore, I want to tell you, you’re going to see a different horse too. You know, he likes the bouncy fast track. I don’t know what the surface will be until I’m there, but I thought that the track got a little slow at Churchill Downs with the two hour in between and the heat, and I thought it was a lot faster earlier in the day than it was when they ran the Derby, you know. And I’m from the old school. You don’t have to your tracks with you. He’s run on three different racetracks already and won. I’m not making any excuses. If you’ve got the horse and he’s got his kind of talent, you can run about anything, you know? I’m not going to make that excuse up.
Jim Mulvihill: Art, there’s been a lot of attention given to the final time of the Derby, and we’ve heard our last two guests talk about it. California Chrome was on the slow side historically. But to you, does that mean anything, and does it mean anything going into the Preakness?
Art Sherman: You know, that is nothing—he ran the second fastest Santa Anita Derby ever, and do you realize how many good horses come out of the Santa Anita Derby that went on to win the Kentucky Derby? You know, it’s—you can’t go by tracks. Every surface is different, you know what I mean? You might have 105 Beyer in one race and 97 in another. That doesn’t mean your horse can’t run. On a different surface and the right kind of scenario upfront and a bouncy track, he’s going to run. You know, I know the figure guys get all bummed out about different things, but I never pay attention to that.
Jim Mulvihill: Well, and why should you, you’ve got the Kentucky Derby winner. Now, tell me about the past five days? There’s been so much hoopla. You have all these commitments; all these media appearances. What’s it like being a Kentucky Derby winning trainer five days into it?
Art Sherman: I want to tell you, I’m doing NBC in a little bit from here. They’re coming to my barn at 2 o’clock. I did CBS yesterday. I’ve got a media conference after I run a horse today at Santa Anita, so it’s been pretty hectic. You know, he’s a very popular horse, especially in California. He’s a California rock star right now, and, hey, I’m enjoying it. You know, when do you ever get a horse like him? You know, it’s my first time to have a horse that has his kind of talent.
Jim Mulvihill: Is the horse enjoying it? Do you think he’s aware of extra attention being showered on him; you know, even more so than going into the Derby?
Art Sherman: Oh, yes. He’s a ham. He loves to be around people. You know, they photograph him all over. If you were there at Churchill Downs and you watch him he looks at everybody and just says, hey, come on, take a picture of me. You know, nothing bothers him. He’s a pretty cool horse.
Jim Mulvihill: Now getting down to the actual race a week from Saturday, how do you see that unfolding? I mean you were—Victor was able to sit off the pace in the Derby. Is that—would you hope to see something similar in Baltimore?
Art Sherman: Oh, yes. He likes to run in the pocket. I don’t think you’ll see him far off the pace. I’d like to have a little speed upfront, which the way the race looks like it’s going to unfold; it looks like two to three speed horses in there. My personal, you know, experience of watching these races, if he can come out of there and be fourth going around the turn and fourth down the back side and have a clear path, you’re going to see old Chrome perform.
Liz Clarke: When people refer to you as an old school trainer, I’m quite sure they mean that as a compliment, but can you talk a little bit about what that term means to you? In what ways do you feel you’re an old school trainer, if so?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, in my era training was a little different. Everybody kind of goes for speed and fastest, and if you’re not there working out at the track your horse is not going to be fit enough, and, that’s not true. You know, you’ve got to train your horse as an individual. You can’t just go by every five days of pattern and think your horse if he misses this pattern is not going to perform. You’ve got to see the way the horse is and know your horse. I’m bringing in a horse that’s already had more starts—the biggest, and the strongest record of any horse going into this race. Now what have I got to prove other what we’re doing. I’m not changing anything. It sure has worked for the last five races.
Danny Brewer: Okay, you mentioned something about keeping him happy. You know, California Chrome seems to exude happiness. He just has this demeanor about him. Would you say that’s true, and what are you doing to keep him happy; another extra bag of feed, or what’s going on down there?
Art Sherman: As long as he’s eating good and training good and has the right attitude, I’m coming back in two weeks but I’ve never run him back that quick. I just want to keep him happy, and what I’m talking about, and be fresh. I think actually he could walk into this race and run good, you know what I mean? He’s a good feeling horse and he’s going to run. I’m not worried about it at all.
Danny Brewer: Now they say that you can’t teach talent, and he seems to really have a lot of talent. How much of his whole process is been you teach him or just managing him and what he’s got?
Art Sherman: You know, you have to just manage it. You know what I mean? When you’ve got a horse that can run like he has and has the record that he has now, you know, he’s just a professional. He doesn’t do anything wrong and he trains good. He has no bad habits, and he’s a pleasure to ride. You know, you could talk to anybody in the exercise barn, he’s just such a cool horse to be around, and that means he’s not wasted any motion. You know, he just takes it in stride and he does everything like a normal horse does, but he’s just got that little extra special when it comes to running.
Jennie Rees: Talk about all the different people that had a role with this horse and the team, and it’s true of every horse, but it just gets magnified when there’s a Derby winner, but the contributions of the other people that all think that this is their horse, not just the owners’ horse, because of, you know, the blacksmith, the groom, just sort an open-ended question if you could talk about the team involved?
Art Sherman: Well, they’re all people that have been around horses all their life. You know, you’ve got the exercise boy, a former rider, and he trained horses for a little bit, and very good hand on a horse and they get along really good, which is very important when you’re training horses to have a rapport with your exercise rider and the horse, you know? Then I have my son, who is my right-hand man. He’s with the horse right now. You know, he’s been with me for 25 years. He’s a former rider and my right-hand person. You know, I wouldn’t know what to do without Alan. I know he’s got my back, you know what I mean? I can’t be there right now, and I’ve got horses in Los Alamitos and I’m running one at Santa Anita today. I’ve got other clients that I can’t just say, hey, I’ve got California Chrome and that’s it, you know? I’ve got a barn to run, you know?
Jennie Rees: What about your groom? I understand like his whole family works for you?
Art Sherman: Yes, the whole family. I got his wife, Mama who I call. I’ve got his brother and his wife working for me. I’ve got both his brothers working for me, so it’s kind of like a family affair. You know, I just—they’ve been with me for 15 years the whole family, you know; hard working people. They’ve got a little farm in Mexico they bought and run cattle on that, you know, and it’s just great. I tell you, they’re very loyal, and I enjoy being around them. She’s always making sure I’m not hungry at the barn. She’s always trying to get me fed all that spicy Mexican food, but I love it I tell you.
Jennie Rees: Yes. This is kind of a leading question, but does it—it’s been from my observation that everybody from the people that have the stallion, they all consider this horse in some way their horse as well as the owners’ horse that they won the Kentucky Derby. There was a lot of people that feel this vested interest in the Kentucky Derby winner I guess is what I’m getting at.
Art Sherman: Well, there’s other people involved. You know, you’ve got your owners who were very fortunate; very first horse they ever owned turns out to be a Kentucky Derby winner. I mean what do you do for an encore, you know what I mean? We’ve been at this game for a long time training horses; different horses I’ve had throughout my career. You know, it means so much for the game to have a horse like him come up about right now, and I think it’s been a pleasure for everybody involved. It’s made me feel like an old Willie Nelson rock star I can tell you that. I laugh when I go in the airport now and I’ve got to try and autograph and take pictures with people. I thought, man alive, at 77 I’m doing pretty good right now.
Debbie Arrington: Hi, Art. This is Debbie from Sacramento, and congratulations again on such an incredible win.
Art Sherman: Thank you. Now you’re getting close to my old own hometown (inaudible) up there. You know, I’m an old San Francisco guy myself.
Debbie Arrington: I know. Well, it certainly (inaudible) the city.
Art Sherman: That’s right. Yes, you’re closer to the (inaudible) than anybody, yes.
Debbie Arrington: Oh, yes, yes. They’re right here in the background. Well, it’s—I wanted to ask you about Victor Espinoza. You guys go way back also. You know, what is it about Victor and this horse that they get along so well?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, Victor is a very talented rider, you know, I told him, I said, I’m going to put you on a real nice horse. Come over and work him for me and see what you; think. After he worked him just the one time he says, wow, I really like this horse I really think he’s the real McCoy. That’s what he told me, which I thought he would. So it’s been a pleasure for him to ride him. He puts him in the right spot to win (cross talking).
Debbie Arrington: Victor’s undefeated on Chrome. You know, do you think that he and Chrome just have some sort of simpatico where they just really click?
Art Sherman: Yes, I really do. I mean he knows him like a book. He knows sometimes he can break a little bit slow if he’s not completely in the (inaudible) when they break, so he knows he’s got to look out for that. Even if he does break a hair slow he puts him in a spot where he can be competitive, because he’s got a really good turn of foot when he comes away from there after a couple of strides.
Debbie Arrington: The Preakness has got all these new shooters in there. Does that concern you at all that you’ve got a whole new group that you’ve got to beat?
Art Sherman: Well, I knew that was going to happen. You know, they were just waiting. They didn’t go to the Kentucky Derby for various reasons, you know. Now it’s a shorter field, but we’ve got a lot of speed in the race. I was looking at the PPs on a lot of the horses, and I can’t blame them for to try this race, you know what I mean? They figure, well, I’m having to come back in two weeks while there are only a couple others, Ride on Curlin and a couple other horses that ran in the Derby, but, you know, they’ve got Bayern who’s got a lot of speed, and you’ve got that other horse from New York in back there, but they’ve all gotten beat, you know what I mean? People don’t have to realize, when you’ve got a horse that’s just coming off of five victories straight, and a lot of these horses are still eligible for condition, there’s no bona fide stake horses in there and if you’ve been in the game as long as I’ve been, you’ve got to prove yourself. You’re not going to get out of an easy go just because you’re fresh coming into this race. There’s a horse who’s a seasoned veteran right now coming into these races, and I think that’s going to be a big help for him.
Larry Stumes: Hey, Art. Congratulations, and San Francisco, huh?
Art Sherman: Yes, you got it. I know, these are all my partners up there. Now you’ve got some friendly people that I know, you know what I mean? It’s personal. I enjoy every one of the people from around the San Francisco area.
Larry Stumes: Well, the people here couldn’t be happier than to have a new one at the Kentucky Derby. Hey, Art, your horse no matter what happens early in the race, when he gets to the top of the stretch, he just sprints away from the rest of the field at least his last five races. Is that something that can be taught, or is that just absolute talent?
Art Sherman: That’s just talent. Larry, you know, when you have a horse that can run, when you sit there with a handful of horses turning for home and everybody’s whipping and driving and you’re just waiting for the command to go on, you know, it’s—I’ll tell you, when he asks him to run, he just—he staggers them horses when he opens up five on them, you know what I mean? They’ve already been into a drive, and it kind of takes a little bit of the heart right out a few horses. I know you could take the heart out of me when I was going up to a horse and all of a sudden he does five on you and you’ve been in the drive to get him, you know?
Liz Smith: Hello. I’d like to find out, do you do any alternative practices with him like chiropractic or massage therapy with California Chrome?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, I have never done that with him. You know, it’s not that I don’t believe in that. I’ve had horses get a little crampy and had chiropractors work on them, but if it isn’t broken, why try something, you know what I mean? I can leave him alone, you know what I mean? I’m not going to start in saying, well, I think he needs a massage now, you know. I’m just going to wait and see. Maybe I’m hoping he doesn’t need one, because usually when you have a horse that needs chiropractic work, he’s a little off some place, you know.
Liz Smith: Okay, that’s great to hear. My second question is watching the videos he looks to me like a horse that might like a Jolly Ball. Does he have a toy ball or a toy in his stall?
Art Sherman: Oh, he does. He does have a tetherball he plays with all the time.
Liz Smith: Yes, yes, okay.
Art Sherman: He likes that. He likes that.
Liz Smith: Keeps him busy?
Art Sherman: Yes, it keeps him occupied and gives him something to do when there’s nobody around, but there’s usually somebody around all the time.
Liz Smith: Well, the human Jolly Ball, so.
Art Sherman: True. It just hangs from his stall, where you can hang it up, and he plays with it and he bounces it all around. Yes, he enjoys that.
Julie Sarno: Well, Art, we’ve heard from Sacramento, San Francisco, and now it’s San Diego. Congratulations..
Art Sherman: That’s right. That’s right. Now you’re close to Rancho Bernardo. That’s where I’m at, you know what I mean (cross talking)? We’re neighbors; we’re really neighbors, yes.
Julie Farno: Yes. I read that you bought a condo in Rancho Bernardo. Do you commute from there to Los Alamitos?
Art Sherman: No, I don’t. I rented a house close to Los Alamitos, and actually it’s the house we live in on the golf course in that area. It’s a nice community. I enjoy it a lot.
Julie Farno: Well, that’s good because it would be a tough commute from Rancho Bernardo every day.
Art Sherman: Oh no, I couldn’t do that. My commute is good when I go to Del Mar and around that area. I have to be close to my horses, so we’ve got a nice place right here in Lakewood. It’s about 5 miles from Los Alamitos, and it’s a nice house; we’re renting it.
Julie Farno: Speaking of Del Mar, which you mentioned, yesterday I interviewed Gary Jones, who was recently elected to the Hall of Fame, and he spent the first 15 minutes of the interview talking about you and how thrilled he was that you won the Derby.
Art Sherman: Yes, he’s one of my good friends, from years gone by. You know, I enjoy his son every day now, and I say, well, me and your dad used to breeze horses and now I’m talking to you. He’s a very nice man, you know, Marty. I enjoy him a lot, and a good horseman, too.
Art Wilson: Hey, when you wake up in the morning and you lay in bed for a couple minutes, do you ever wonder to yourself is this really happening?
Art Sherman: You know, sometimes you’ve got to pinch yourself, you know what I mean, and say, you know, I just won the Kentucky Derby, you know what I mean, and I said, wow. I say, you know what, you don’t realize it with all the coming of the Preakness and everything that’s going, but I look back and I said, even if I never win another race with this horse, he’s won the Kentucky Derby. You know, he’s there engraved (ph) with a lot of champions, and I’ll be there, too, you know what I mean? It might say I’m the on the handle the oldest trainer that ever won it, but that’s okay with me. At least we can say I did win the Kentucky Derby, and I’m really humble about that I’ll tell you.
Art Wilson: Okay, and my other question for you is you’re on record as saying that you don’t normally like to run your horses back in two weeks. The way the Triple Crown is set up, obviously you have the three races in the five week span, which is really grueling. Do you think that that is too tough on the horses, or are you an old school traditionalist who’d say leave it the way it is?
Art Sherman: Well, you know, I really think two weeks from the Derby into the Preakness, I would’ve loved to have seen at least three, you know what I mean? I just think, it takes a horse about 11 days to completely recover out of a race, before they’re —blood level, everything is right, and it’s pushing the envelope a little bit, you know what I mean? Some horses have got enough talent they can overcome that, but I still think, boy, I’d sure like to have an extra week prior to that race.
Art Wilson: But are you a traditional? Do you want to see it stay—left the way it is, or would you like to see the extra week put in?
Art Sherman: I would like to see the extra week put in. I just think it’s hard on the horse.I know it’s tradition, and you know, but it’s grueling. You know, you’ve got three different tracks and you’ve got to go—travel to—there’s been some super horses win the Triple Crown and (inaudible), but when you look at the record there’s not too many of them. It’s got to take its toll on them. Usually the Belmont is the one that kind of shakes everybody up from the Triple Crown, you know? So I look at that history, and I always thought, well, you’d better have a runner if you’re going to make the Triple Crown run. So here I am trying it, so I’m hoping that the Racing Gods are looking down at me, I tell you that.
Jim Mulvihill: Art, we really appreciate your time. You’ve been such a great help to all of the media this entire run, and we’re all wishing you the best of luck on Preakness Day.
Art Sherman: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Jim Mulvihill: You got it. We’ll see you in Baltimore. Thanks for your time.
Art Sherman: Bye-bye.
Jim Mulvihill: That was Art Sherman. Now just for the record, I want to—for anybody who needs it, the groom that Jennie and Art were talking about is Raul Rodriguez; R-A-U-L for Raul.