As a young man, Art was just over five feet tall. His family had moved from Brooklyn to California when he was a boy, and based on his small stature, people suggested that he’d make a perfect jockey. At the age of 17, he found work at a California horse ranch. There, Art was taught all about horses, from breeding to riding. He had found his passion.
Within a year, Art’s job was to ride the horses to get them into condition for competitive races, in which they’d be ridden by their jockeys. He began working with a horse called Swaps, who showed potential as a contender for the Kentucky Derby. However, the popular belief was that few horses from California could match up with those born and bred in Kentucky. Nevertheless, Swaps was entered, and Art rode cross-country in a train car with the horse, sleeping alongside him on a bed of straw for the four night trip to Kentucky. It was worth the long trip, though, because Art got to see Swaps ride to victory in the derby against several heavily favored East-coast rivals.
Art became a jockey two years later. He won numerous races, including one where he was awarded his trophy by the future President of the United States, and another in which he beat one of his idols. Art rode professionally for more than 20 years, but never won any of the major races. At the age of 42, he became a professional trainer, still living and working in California.
In 2008, a man named Steve Coburn was working for a company that made magnetic strips for credit cards and hotel keys. His job was literally to press the magnetic strips onto the cards. It was tedious work, and he often found himself daydreaming of a different life. Eventually, he was able to act on a long-time dream, partnering with his good friend Perry Martin to put up $8,000 to buy an older race horse for breeding purposes. The two friends had never owned a horse before, and didn’t really know what they were doing.
The day they bought that old mare, a nearby horse expert actually blurted out, “only a dumbass would buy that horse!” In response, Steve and Perry jokingly named their new partnership, “Dumb Ass Partners,” and had a logo made of a bucktoothed donkey. Regardless of what people said, they shared a dream, and invested another $2,500 to breed their horse. To put this investment in perspective, most owners spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a colt with the qualities to win.
A few weeks before the mare gave birth, Steve dreamed that the foal would have four white feet (often thought to be bad luck in racing circles) and a large white stripe called a “blaze” down its nose. Sure enough, the chestnut colt had exactly those markings, and they took it as a good sign. Perry brought their young colt to be trained at Art’s stable. Now in his 70s, Art had never been responsible for training a top-tier horse, but something about this one was different.
On May 3rd, 2014, California Chrome became just the fourth California-born-and-bred race horse to ever win the Kentucky Derby. No horse from California had done it in more than 50 years, and it had been nearly six decades since the 77-year-old Art Sherman had been involved with a derby horse. Talk about waiting patiently to fulfill a lifelong dream!
Amazingly, just a few weeks before the derby, owners Steve and Perry turned down an offer to sell control of California Chrome for 6 million dollars. Turning down $6 million on a horse in which they’d invested only $10,500 may have seemed foolish, but they weren’t just in it for money. They had put work, love and faith into their young champion, and wanted to see it pay off at the highest level of competition in the sport. Their dream was not for sale.
We all have dreams in life, and very often, people may suggest we try other paths. Art Sherman’s steadfast determination in sticking with his dream for over sixty years shows how putting security over doing what you love isn’t the road to success; do what you love, become great at it, and success will inevitably follow. And the belief shown by Perry Martin and Steve Coburn demonstrates that sometimes you just have to follow your instincts, even if popular wisdom says to do otherwise. In the words of Steve himself, “If you’ve got a dream and you’re willing to ride it out, it will come true for you. We’re living proof!”
Until Next Week,
Live Your Dreams!