01/18/2015 1:39PM

Sherman flying high on California Chrome's Eclipse wins

Justin N. Lane
California Chrome was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male Saturday night at the 44th annual Eclipse Awards.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Art Sherman had an early morning flight Sunday to head back to California, but he probably didn’t need the plane, so high was he emotionally after his colt California Chrome was named Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male Saturday night at the 44th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at Gulfstream Park.

“When they said Horse of the Year, I said, ‘Wow,’ ” Sherman said.

Sherman was instrumental in California Chrome getting both titles. After his loss in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Bayern, California Chrome had a resume that included victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Santa Anita Derby, but he was winless since mid-May.

Sherman initially thought California Chrome was done for the year, but he was so impressed with the way California Chrome came out of the Classic that he trusted his instincts and rolled the dice by running California Chrome on turf for the first time in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar four weeks later.

California Chrome won, and that victory likely helped swing many voters looking for a reason to embrace him back into his corner. If he had lost, Sherman would have been second-guessed, but he was right and deserves much of the credit for what ended up transpiring here Saturday night.

California Chrome received 143 first-place votes from the 265 voters who returned ballots.  Main Sequence, who won titles as champion older male and champion male turf horse, was next with 53, with Bayern third with 36 votes. Shared Belief (12), Untapable (11), Wise Dan (6), Adelaide (1), and Take Charge Brandi (1) also received first-place votes. Two voters abstained.

Voting is conducted by members of Daily Racing Form, the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which includes employees of Equibase. There were 280 eligible voters.

Because he and his family were in Florida for the weekend, Sherman postponed by 48 hours a scheduled workout for California Chrome. He usually works every Saturday but was slated to work Monday at Los Alamitos after Sherman got home Sunday.

California Chrome is scheduled to make his first start of 2015 in the Grade 2, $500,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7. On Saturday night, Sherman said the Dubai World Cup in late March is a possibility after the San Antonio.

“We might be headed that way,” he said.

Shared Belief also is being pointed to the San Antonio. His trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Sherman have been friends for many years. Hollendorfer phoned Sherman Saturday afternoon to wish him luck Saturday night.

“He said we were going to win both. He was right,” Sherman said.

Other highlights of the evening included a graceful acceptance speech by Tom Durkin when presented with the Eclipse Award of Merit, which followed a heartfelt introduction by David Grening, Daily Racing Form’s New York correspondent.

Willis Horton, the owner of the 2-year-old filly champ Take Charge Brandi, was as entertaining in his speech as he was a year ago when his colt, Will Take Charge, was named champion 3-year-old male.

And Michael Blowen, whose Old Friends was recognized with a Special Eclipse Award, announced Old Friends was opening a satellite facility at Kentucky Downs, which will be the first Old Friends facility based at a racetrack. Old Friends now cares for 152 horses. Blowen, a leader in horse aftercare, reminded the audience of more than 500 always to put horses first.

“After all,” he said, “they’re the only reason we’re all here.”