Trainer Don Sherman came to Saratoga Casino Hotel a few years ago as a relative unknown. No, Sherman was not a rookie trainer when he debuted at the Spa at the start of the 2014 season, but his first nearly twenty years as a conditioner were spent in Michigan. Sherman had success while racing primarily at Northville Downs and Sports Creek Raceway in Michigan and despite enjoying the two best years of his career moved east at the end of 2013. Sherman brought with him a mixed bag of pacers and trotters, younger horses and veterans and claimers and condition horses when he showed up at the Spa. It didn’t take long for the Michigan invader to enjoy success in New York as Sherman trainees recorded 66 wins and earned more than $250,000 in ’14, racing primarily at Saratoga.
Sherman had his best three years as a Michigan-based trainer in ’11, ’12 and ’13 as his stable amassed well better than an average of $200,000 but his move to the Spa proved successful with his strong 2014 campaign. Don Sherman added his name to the list of Peerless McGrath Award winners in his rookie local campaign as he was recognized as the track’s top breakthrough trainer, given annually to either a new trainer or one that made a significant impact for the first time at the Spa. His stable amassed over $182,000 in its starts at the Spa by way of 39 wins. If the local freshman campaign for Sherman was strong in ’14, the 2015 season was off-the-charts for him as he had by far the best year of his career.
Sherman had a ’15 season in which his trainees earned more than $450,000 in 294 local starts by way of an incredible 73 victories (84 wins in total including his starts out of town), by far the most in any year of his career. For his efforts, Sherman finished in fourth in the trainer standings at Saratoga in just his second season in town despite having more than 200 fewer starts than the trainers who finished ahead of him. While he carried over a couple horses that he brought with him on his move east, the current Wilton resident has focused on claimers to comprise much of his stable. Though there were several horses who enjoyed a tremendous ’15 season for Sherman, there is no doubt that his stable star last year was Jimmer. A $15,000 claim for Sherman last May, Jimmer earned almost $80,000 in the following seven months under the guidance of his new trainer and even recorded three victories in the local Open Trot. While Sherman had success with several claimers last year, there was no better example of a horse acquired via claim that thrived in the Sherman stable than Jimmer. Though he has hit the board four times this year, Jimmer has yet to record a ’16 victory in his six starts. A slow beginning to his season does nothing to take away from the success that Jimmer had for Sherman during the conditioner’s sensational 2015 campaign.
Sherman claimed pacing mare Olivia’s Z Tam late last year along with co-owner Jessica Roegner. A $6,000 claim in late October, Olivia’s Z Tam rattled off three consecutive wins in the $10,000 claiming condition. While he hasn’t found any Jimmers this year, Sherman has been taking part in the claiming game in full force in the past few months. Olivia’s Z Tam scored a victory in the straight $10,000 claimers in April but was claimed from Sherman in that start. The following week, the five year old mare was right back in the same class and Sherman played the claiming game, taking back the mare with whom he had enjoyed success since last year’s claim. Olivia has certainly found a home in that class as she has piled up four wins and two seconds in her last six starts for Sherman in the ten claimers including her most recent victory which came in career best fashion. Olivia’s Z Tam set a new lifetime mark on Friday night as she stopped the timer in 1:54 in her front-running score.
On Thursday evening, Show Stopping competed for the fifth time since being claimed by Sherman in late April. After prevailing in his first start out of the Sherman barn, Show Stopping set a lifetime mark in his subsequent race, scoring by more than ten lengths in 1:54.2. After a couple of starts up in class in which he drew post position seven, Show Stopping was back in the $5,000 claimers on Thursday and quickly returned to his winning ways. It was yet another lifetime mark for the Sherman trainee as Show Stopping rolled to a convincing win in 1:54.
Saturday night was the fourth start for Here Comes Karma since a claim by Sherman last month. A rare horse to be claimed out of the $7,500 conditional-claimers, Here Comes Karma finished fourth in his first start for the 42 year old Sherman. Soon after, the four year old pacer paid dividends for his new connections as he went back to back after moving up to compete in the $10,000 claiming condition. Once again, it was a Sherman trainee putting in a career best performance as Here Comes Karma stopped the timer in 1:53.2 in his second score since the claim, lowering his lifetime mark by more than a full second. The up-and-coming pacer flashed previously unseen early speed on his way to his successive victories, a trait he continued to display on Saturday night. Here Comes Karma went coast to coast for the third consecutive Saturday night with Bruce Aldrich Jr. in the sulky, stopping the timer in 1:53.4 in his most recent romp. Don Sherman continues to thrive playing the claiming game as the trainer who is now considered a Spa regular is again enjoying a strong season led by claimers Olivia’s Z Tam, Show Stopping and Here Comes Karma. Sherman claimed young pacer Eli Alexander last week and will debut his most recent claim on Thursday’s card as he looks to continue his trend of thriving with claimers at the Spa.
Live racing takes place every Thursday starting at 4:00pm and continues on Friday and Saturday with action beginning at 6:45pm. Sunday matinees kick off each week at 12:15pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!