05/14/2014 11:40AM

Oy gevalt! Derby-winning trainer is a nice Jewish boy

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Barbara D. Livingston
Art Sherman (left), with his son and assistant Alan, was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents.

BALTIMORE – Since winning the Kentucky Derby, Art Sherman has been interviewed by NBC, Fox, TVG, HRTV, and members of print media, including a publication for those of the Jewish faith that wanted to know how this nice Jewish boy came to train the winner of the Derby.

Yes, little Arthur Sherman, born in Brooklyn, raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, didn’t grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer. Instead, this son of a barber became a jockey, then a trainer, owing to his size, 5-foot-2. His younger brother, Jack, became a psychologist. Art Sherman gravitated to the racetrack.

Sherman follows some Jewish cultural customs but does not practice the religion.

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“I never even had a bar mitzvah,” Sherman said recently at Los Alamitos, where he is based. “I went to Hebrew school. One day, my teacher hit me on the head. I told my parents I’m not going back to learn from this idiot.”

Sherman said his parents were not religious. But his nieces – the daughters of his late older sister, Gladys – have a Passover seder every year, and Sherman tries to make it.

“We probably have more gentiles than Jews at the table,” Sherman said.

Sherman loves ethnic Jewish food. His favorite deli in the San Diego area is the well-known D.Z. Akin’s, near San Diego State University, about 25 miles from his home in Rancho Bernardo.

“Akin’s, they have the best matzoh ball soup,” Sherman said. “I like going there for Jewish soul food – lox, eggs, onions.”

Sherman is not the first Jewish person to train a Derby winner. For instance, Max Hirsch, a Hall of Famer, won the race three times, including in 1946 with Assault, who won the Triple Crown.

Other well-known Jewish trainers include the late racing Hall of Famers Bobby Frankel and Hirsch Jacobs, both of whom are also in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in Israel, as are Walter Blum, a former jockey who is now a steward, and the late jockey Bill Harmatz.

Sherman’s late mother would be proud to have her son in such company.