By Jeremy Balan
Time has a funny way of warping in the human brain.
Only four years ago, a humbly bred chestnut with a white blaze was just starting his racing career for trainer Art Sherman, but it almost feels like ancient history.
Part of that can probably be attributed to the closure of Hollywood Park. California Chrome began his journey toward 16 wins, seven group/grade 1 victories, two Horse of the Year honors, and more than $14.7 million in earnings at the Inglewood, Calif., racetrack, which isn’t even ruins on the west side of Los Angeles any longer. The new Los Angeles Stadium development for the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers is being constructed on top of the former racetrack grounds.
Sherman laughed at the thought June 3 at his new base, Los Alamitos Race Course.
“We had the horse in training for (almost four years), so it feels like longer,” the 80-year-old conditioner said.
The nostalgia and good vibes California Chrome provided for Sherman, and his son and top assistant Alan Sherman, still linger five months after the horse’s retirement. Those feelings remain not only because of the lasting impression of California Chrome, but because the horse currently occupying his old stall happens to share his genetics.
When Faversham, the only full brother to California Chrome (by Lucky Pulpit , out of Love the Chase), popped out of his sibling’s old double-wide stall for a work Saturday morning at Los Alamitos, the resemblance wasn’t hard to spot. Also a chestnut, the white blaze on his face is different, and only scoops down to touch the left side of his nose, but the colt displayed a similar energy. Springy on his feet, energetic, and eager to get to work, Faversham was escorted out to the track by his brother’s former groom, Raul Rodriguez.
California Chrome’s exercise rider, Dihigi Gladney, who was watching from the rail, caught the colt coming to the track and hollered out.
“Just wait until you see this guy galloping in the mornings,” Gladney said. “He’s got that same attitude.”
The Shermans admit they’ve seen similarities too, even down to the way he stands in the stall.
“He has so many characteristics like him,” Art Sherman said. “He’s smart, he cocks his leg in the stall the same way Chrome used to, and he’s got a lot of the same habits. He loves people, he loves his cookies—if you didn’t know, you’d think it was Chrome when he was a 2-year-old.”
Unlike his brother’s regular early morning workouts, there was no “Chromie” entourage sitting with the Shermans on the deck of Schwanies At The Gap, Los Al’s trackside grill, but the group in attendance was still familiar. After Faversham worked in company, inside 3-year-old filly Ruled by Girls, and covered five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 under jockey Stewart Elliott, Art Sherman called up Los Al clocker Russ Hudak to get the colt’s official time, and was immediately ribbed by Quarter Horse trainer John Cooper.
“I don’t know. I had him a little faster,” Art Sherman said, looking down at his stopwatch that read 1:00 flat.
“Oh, you always get them faster,” shot back Cooper, who has often been the Shermans’ Schwanies companion since they moved their stable to the Orange County racetrack. “Maybe it’s that watch of yours.”
Just before the work started Saturday, Alan Sherman looked through his binoculars as he watched Faversham approach the half-mile pole and added his opinion.
“He does have a lot of the same mannerisms,” the younger Sherman said.
“I just hope he has the same talent,” the elder responded.
To be fair, the record of California Chrome’s full siblings has not been promising, albeit from a small sample size.
The first was Hope’s Love, who was born in 2013, two years after her famous brother. She showed promise in her first start for Steve Sherman (another one of Art’s sons) at Golden Gate Fields, where she finished second, but never hit the board again in four following starts, and has been retired to be a broodmare in 2018.
The second was R Sunday Surprise, another filly who placed in her debut (and again in her third maiden try), but has yet to find the winner’s circle in five attempts. She started racing with trainer Doug O’Neill, but has since been moved to Kristin Mulhall, who is training her steadily toward her 3-year-old debut.
Faversham is the only full brother in the family, however, and the Shermans are hoping to debut him June 16 at Santa Anita Park in a five-furlong, state-bred maiden race. With Lucky Pulpit’s death in February, there will certainly be no more full siblings to the out-of-nowhere champion known as California Chrome. And with Love the Chase sold for $1.95 million at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton November sale, it would be a longshot for a half sibling to find its way into the Sherman barn at Los Al. Love the Chase had a foal by Tapit in 2017.
So the hope is, maybe—just maybe—they can catch lightning in a bottle once more with owner Perry Martin.
“It’s pretty cool to have the last of that breeding. It’s kinda like an era going by,” Sherman said. “The sire died. The mare is sold. That is the last one. Chrome was a little more mature at this stage, but this horse is still growing and getting bigger.
“But this horse is doing everything right. He can be inside or outside, he doesn’t have any bad habits, and he’s good-feeling like Chrome was. He’s got a little oomph to him. It’s just fun having him in the barn.”
If that “oomph” carries him to the winner’s circle June 16, the Schwanies deck may not be so empty this summer.