Some of the locals howling Saturday as the humbly reared California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby were happiest for a greyed ex-jockey named Art Sherman.

He is California Chrome's trainer, and at 77 is now the oldest trainer in history to win at Churchill Downs. But a decade ago, some will remember, Sherman toiled to groom a winner for Sonoma State University.

In one of the most curious college athletics fund-raisers ever, an independent corporation at SSU bought and then sold shares in two racehorses — Sonoma Slew, grandson of champion Seattle Slew, and Seawolf. That was 2003.

The shares sale raised a quick, easy $100,000 for the college's under-funded athletic scholarships. Investors stood to share in the riches were the horses to run well.

Art Sherman came in as Sonoma Slew's trainer. He's a sweet guy, so part of the pay-off to investors in Seawolf

Stables was getting know him and soaking in some of his knowledge of the ponies.

Sonoma Slew was a beauty of a horse, but he seemed to not have his heart in racing. Seawolf fared better, but not all that much.

In 2005, Sonoma Slew was adopted out and Art Sherman, then 68, moved on to new challenges as a trainer.

Look at him now. With California Chrome, who knows, he just might be in the running for the Triple Crown.

THEN THERE'S 'MULE': Last summer, it surprised or intrigued many of us to spot a wiry, sun-baked guy walking along a street, road or highway with three pack mules.

He calls himself Mule but if pressed will allow that his name is John Sears. For years, he has walked with his mules, getting by on little and advocating a more inclusive culture that allows a rover to move about, sleep and graze his animals without being arrested, fined or run off.

You may recall that Sears, 66, locked horns with the CHP on the bridge over the Napa River and though he'd hoped to walk the Golden Gate Bridge with his mules, he struck a deal for rangers to trailer the animals.

Having wintered in Southern California, Sears now is headed back north. John McDonald, who's assisting the mules man and shooting a documentary of him, said Sears intends to return to the Golden Gate Bridge and to ask once again to be allowed to walk it with the mules.

We're likely to see him back up here this summer.

Meanwhile, McDonald seeks financial help to make the film. To check out his request, go to, click on "Donate to a Film" and find "Mule."

YOU CAN VOTE for Nicole Ellwood, even though the teacher and deep-rooted Sonoma County native isn't running for anything.

She's one of five finalists in Comcast of the Bay Area's "All-Star Teacher" contest. The winner's school will receive $20,000.

Mrs. Ellwood is a special-

education teacher, by many accounts an extraordinary one, at Sebastopol's Twin Hills Charter Middle School.

Through June 1, we can vote for her at:

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and