After a nice, late dinner at Chin's Szechwan Cuisine, 79-year-old Art Sherman felt like getting back on a horse Aug. 21 at Del Mar, a day after California Chrome 's dominant victory in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (gr. I).
Almost an octogenarian, the former exercise rider for Swaps would just like one chance to get on his brilliant chestnut.
"I'd love to just sit on him one time," Sherman said with his trademark wry smile. "I'll tell (jockey) Victor (Espinoza), 'Just don't make any mistakes, because he might get a different rider.'
"I've had dreams of being on that horse."
Barn CC on the Del Mar backside had a party-like atmosphere Sunday morning—with a large group of connections and fans huddled around the 2014 Horse of the Year's stall—following what Sherman called the best performance of his career.
"I knew the race was over at the three-eighths pole, because I know what the horse can do," Sherman said of the greared-down, five-length victory over defending Pacific Classic winner Beholder. "If (Espinoza) would have rolled him out, he would have been close to the track record. But I'm not looking for the track record. Let him come back in one piece. We've got some serious races the rest of the year."
The path ahead for California Chrome could include a special $1 million bonus offered by Del Mar and Santa Anita Park if he wins the upcoming Awesome Again (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), but Sherman said he could pass on the middle race in the series and train right up to the Breeders' Cup.
"I'm not pressing him. I know it's a million-dollar bonus, but really, are we worried about that?" Sherman said. "A million dollars is nice, but it's the horse. If I miss the Awesome Again and we go into the Breeders' Cup, he'll be ready. I'm not worried about it. I want a fresh horse going into that race. He'll let me know how he's feeling."
He was feeling pretty well Sunday morning. Sherman arrived at the barn at 5 a.m. PDT to check up on the 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit and said he left his typical bit of feed in the tub.
"He looks good," Sherman said. "I went over him—knees, ankles—everything looked tight. He left a handful of food, but he always does that. We'll get him on the massaging machine before he leaves. He loves that."
California Chrome shipped back north to his home at Los Alamitos Race Course at 8:15 a.m. Sunday, and will settle in at the Orange County track before Sherman makes any decision on getting him back to trainnig, but don't be surprised if he's out sooner rather than later.
"We'll just freshen him up and let Chrome be Chrome," the trainer said. "But if you don't go back to the track, he gets a little testy on you."
As for Beholder, whose race Saturday likely would have won a large majority of recent Pacific Classics, trainer Richard Mandella said his mare also came out of the race well. He's also unsure of her path to the Breeders' Cup and even which Breeders' Cup race she might enter in.
A year ago, Mandella felt like he could take on the world with the Henny Hughes mare following her romp in the Pacific Classic. This year, things have changed a bit.
"Not the world, no, but she's still pretty good," Mandella said. "We'll leave it all open for a little while, but we could end up going a little conservative going into the Breeders' Cup. But we're not going to shut any doors today."
The Hall of Fame trainer also reflected on Beholder's Del Mar meet, which featured a tight loss to Stellar Wind in the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. I), a race Mandella felt he didn't get the three-time champion primed for.
"She ran very good (in the Pacific Classic) and I'm very proud of her. I think I did correct some things," Mandella said. "We got off to a bad start to the meet getting beat, but she wasn't herself in that race. I don't mean to say that and take away from the winner, but my mare wasn't herself. She was tripping on her big belly I created. I was just so happy for her to be fat and pretty.
"(California Chrome) was going to take no beating yesterday. He was the man. We were it last year. It's hard to have the very best of them all the time."
The best, for now, appears to be California Chrome, even though Frosted may have something to say about that come Breeders' Cup time.
"It's like a storybook," Sherman said. "There's peaks and valleys, (but he's the) best horse in the world. That's him."
Win the Space, who was pulled up in the stretch by Joe Talamo and did not finish in the Pacific Classic, also came out of the race with no issues, according to trainer George Papaprodromou, who was admittedly frustrated.
"Talamo felt something, but the horse came out of the race fine," Papaprodromou said. "It's hard, because he was training so well into the race, but the horse came out of the race fine. What can you do?
"He got checked by three vets and they couldn't find a pimple on him."