LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Art Sherman lives in a nice little house next to a picturesque golf course in San Diego.

From his porch, he can see men much younger than his 77 years chipping and putting happily along.

That retirement life is not for Sherman.

"I wouldn't know what to do with myself," he said Saturday after he became the oldest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby with California Chrome.

He was at a similar loss of what to do with himself as he watched California Chrome with Victor Espinoza aboard cruise to a 1¾-length victory.

"This has to be the sweetest moment of my life," said Sherman, who has worked at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields during his career. "To be my age and have something like this happen, what can you say?"

Sherman, who was a jockey for 23 years before becoming a trainer in 1980, is so superstitious that he doesn't want anyone to say anything to him until his horse has crossed the finish line.

"One of my biggest beefs is when somebody grabs me and says, 'You won it. You won it.' And I'm like, 'Please don't say that, I've got 70 yards to go. Don't say that.' "

But the final 16th of a mile in the Derby, Sherman said he knew. He could feel it in every achy part of his 5-foot-2 frame that had been broken and beaten up from so many years of riding.

For a few seconds, he found himself wishing he was a jockey again, wishing he could ride that final 70 yards to the finish line.

Lifetimes have started and ended in the decades since Sherman rode a Derby winner, even if it was just in the mornings. Back then he was an 18-year-old exercise rider aboard Swaps.

He watched from the backside as Swaps won the 1955 Derby. Sherman was young then and had no idea that Derby winners don't enter and exit your life on a regular basis.

Nearly 60 years later, he was a winner again.

"This was a big moment for me today," Sherman said. "This is what every trainer wants to win. You always have it in the back of your mind: Can I win the Kentucky Derby? And now my name will be up there. I feel really blessed."

In a sport dominated by wealthy owners and regally bred horses, this was a victory for the little guys. Owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn bred an $8,000 mare to a $2,500 stallion to produce the winner of the world's most famous race with their one-horse stable.

"This is a dream come true and a great birthday present,'" said Coburn, who turned 61 on Saturday.

California Chrome ran 1¼ miles in 2:03.66 and paid $7 to win.

"This horse has so much talent," said Espinoza, who began his riding career in 1993 in the Bay Area. "By the three-eighths pole I knew that was it. I could see other horses struggling a little bit, and he was just smooth."

The chestnut colt was sent off as the 5-to-2 favorite by the crowd of 164,906, the second-largest in the Derby's 140-year history.

"Sometimes you don't get a lot of respect," said Sherman, who went to visit Swaps, buried at the Kentucky Derby Museum, on Thursday. He said a little prayer.

"I said, 'Hey, let me have half your talent, put into Chrome, I'll be the happiest guy in the world,' " Sherman recalled of his graveside visit. "He was a super horse, Swaps, you know, had six world records at one time."

And there he was Saturday, the happiest guy at least at Churchill Downs.

"I'm just the same old Art Sherman except I won the Kentucky Derby," he said.

  • Commanding Curve, a 37-1 shot, placed second, with Danza third. Vicar's In Trouble, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, was last in the field of 19. Napravnik was trying to become the first female to win the Derby.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.