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Shermans' theme park ride hits the brakes

Art Sherman, trainer of Kentucky Derby contender California

Art Sherman, trainer of Kentucky Derby contender California Chrome, watches from the barn area during early morning workouts at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Squire

So all fairy tales don't come true. California Chrome's failure to win thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown since 1978 meant that 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman had a significant disappointment to go along with the zenith of his long career.

Five weeks ago, Sherman became the oldest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby. California Chrome added to that with his Preakness win before all that exhilaration turned to dread coming off the final turn of Saturday's Belmont.

"You know, the horse tried hard," Sherman's son Alan, who assists his father in training California Chrome, said. "It's a long ride on these young horses and that's why the Triple Crown is so tough to win. The horse tried; that's all you can ask for. He took us on the ride of our life."

Meanwhile, the loss doesn't change Art Sherman's fit-for-a-movie life story. Born in Brooklyn, he moved to California with his family at 7 and, one story goes, he became interested in horse racing while hanging out at his father's barbershop and hearing customers talk about racing bets.

Those customers also suggested the 5-2 Sherman think about being a jockey. At 18, he was an exercise rider for 1955 Kentucky Derby champion Swaps. Sherman rode in the train boxcar with Swaps -- sleeping on hay in a sleeping bag -- four days to the Derby from California, where he has been based throughout his racing career.

As a jockey, he won more than 2,000 races before retiring in 1978. As a trainer, he has another 2,000-plus wins. And because of California Chrome, Sherman said, he and his wife got to spend some time in New York City. "She loves New York," he said.

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