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C O N T E N T S
PAPA CLEM LIVES ON
WAIT A SEC, WASN’T THAT. . . ?
Bo Hirsch waited for just the right horse to name for his late father, Oak Tree founding President Clement Hirsch, and Papa Clem took Bo racing across the country.
Déjà vu set in last Oct. 18 when eight Hall of Fame jockeys came out of retirement for the Living Legends race at Oak Tree. Most are familiar faces to California winner’s circles.
BAFFERT’S SECOND ACT
A couple of relatively quiet years followed Bob Baffert’s three Kentucky Derby victories, but he’s back in the thick of things with Breeders’ Cup wins, Triple Crown hopes, and his ever-present sense of fun.
Whenever Mike and Mary Ellen Pegram or the Gregson Foundation get involved, young people benefit. Thus, it was a natural for the foundation to honor the Pegrams at its annual dinner.
FOLLOWING IN DAD’S FOOTSTEPS
BREEDERS’ CUP, CALIFORNIA STYLE
THE QUIET MAN
Joining Mom or Dad in the family business has brought many people to the racetrack. Nine racetrack employees recall their career paths, the inspiring roles their relatives played, and tales that include run-ins with gangsters.
No clouds in the sky, enthusiastic crowds, first-class racing—Oak Tree plans another two days that will rival or surpass the 2008 Breeders’ Cup as it becomes the first association ever to host back-to-back Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Rafael Bejarano’s quiet enthusiasm gets horses to the winner’s circle, which snared him every major Southern California riding title in 2008 and endeared him to trainers as well as fans who have backed horses when he’s aboard.
40 OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Officers and Directors Dr. Jack K. Robbins President Sherwood C. Chillingworth Executive Vice-President Dr. Rick Arthur Vice-President John H. Barr Vice-President Thomas R. Capehart Vice-President Richard Mandella Vice-President Warren B. Williamson Vice-President Robert W. Zamarripa, Sr. Vice-President
OAK TREE TIME CAPSULE
CAL-BREDS PARTY ON
Take a look back at Oak Tree’s first four decades, from Czar Alexander’s victory in the inaugural Oak Tree Stakes to Zenyatta’s awe-inspiring turn in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic.
When it comes to having a good time, nothing beats the celebration during California Cup, which turns 20 this year. State-breds will have a day to themselves on Oct. 3, competing for $1 million in purses.
IN A CLASS BY HIMSELF
California’s Tiznow remains the only horse ever to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice, and he is vaulting up the stallion ranks. He took his rightful place this past summer in the Racing Hall of Fame.
The new Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory is dedicated to finding ways to make dirt, turf, and synthetic tracks safer. Oak Tree joined four other organizations to get the lab out of the starting gate.
Oak Tree Racing Association Santa Anita Park Arcadia, California 91007 (626) 574-6345 Publisher Benoit & Associates, Inc. Editor Tracy Gantz Associate Editor Jane Goldstein Creative Director Jerri Hemsworth Art Production Newman Grace Inc. Editorial Contribution
Steve Andersen Bill Christine Tracy Gantz Jane Goldstein Jay Hovdey Steve Schuelein Art Wilson Photo Coordination Rayetta Burr Photography T.J. Abahazy Tom Abahazy Rayetta Burr Adam Coglianese Rick Fernandez Trevor Jones Editorial Consultant Sherwood C. Chillingworth
PADDOCK is published annually by Benoit & Associates, Inc., with offices at 285 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia, CA 91007-3439, telephone (626) 574-6463. Copyright ©2009 Oak Tree Racing Association. No part of PADDOCK may be reprinted in any form without written consent of the publisher. Send change of address to the Editorial Offices.
COVER—Horses burst from the starting gate for the $1 million Juvenile Turf during the two days of Breeders’ Cup at Oak Tree in 2008. Oak Tree will be the first to host back-to-back World Championships as the Breeders’ Cup returns this year on Nov. 6-7. Benoit Photo. PADDOCK 2009
Memories FOR THE
named for Oak Tree founding president Clement Hirsch, took Hirschâ€™s son Bo and the family on the ride of their life. BY JAY HOVDEY
OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Photo by Coady Photography
t one point, he could taste the chili just reading the recipe. This comes to a man not easily. He must shut himself in a room with a pressure cooker, along with the ingredients for more chili concoctions than Solomon had wives. It helped to be driven by an idea hatched by his legendary father, who didn’t want him involved in the first place. And then to have it succeed, who knows where it all would lead? In the case of Bo Hirsch—son of Oak Tree Racing Association founding president Clement L. Hirsch—unearthing the secret to a tasty, highly marketable brand of canned chili some 30 years ago led to, among other things... I An afternoon at the seaside brimming with emotion, after a victory in the 2002 Del Mar Debutante with Miss Houdini, the last of Clement’s foals before his death. I A twilight chorus of “God Bless America” on the veranda of Charles Cella’s trackside resi-
Clement Hirsch stands at the shoulder of My Host with trainer Warren Stute on the shank (far left); Bo Hirsch lights up a cigar reminiscent of his dad; and Clement Hirsch’s namesake, Papa Clem (above, #2), revs up to win the Arkansas Derby.
“I swore I’d never go to the Kentucky Derby until I had a horse in the race.”
dence at Oaklawn Park, where Bo Hirsch won the 2009 Arkansas Derby with Miss Houdini’s son, named Papa Clem. I A walk beneath the twin spires of Churchill Downs one month later, in the company of his 17-year-old daughter Hayley, as Papa Clem took Bo and the Hirsch family to the top of the Thoroughbred world. “People used to ask me, ‘You ever been to the Derby?’” Hirsch said back home in Southern California once the Triple Crown dust had settled. “When I told them I hadn’t, they couldn’t believe it. After all, I was in the business. But I’m not
In the thick of it from the start, the colt charged to the leaders at the top of the long stretch, where those historic black Hirsch silks with the gold cap and diamonds could be seen battling with Pioneerof the Nile and Musket Man down the middle of the track. Hirsch felt his heart leap, briefly, then caught sight of something moving like a runaway train on the rail. “From the stands there you don’t have a very good view, so like most people I’m watching the television with one eye and the race with the other,” Hirsch said. “I saw that horse coming and thought, ‘Holy cow...who is that?’”
Hirsch shares a story with his trainer, Gary Stute, the nephew of Clement Hirsch’s longtime conditioner, the late Warren Stute.
much of a spectator. I wouldn’t go through all that just to watch somebody else’s horse run. I swore I’d never go until I had a horse in the race.” Not just a horse, but a contender, and with an entourage. Once Papa Clem proved himself a legitimate Derby horse with his victory at Oaklawn Park, under the guidance of trainer Gary Stute, Hirsch decided to make his first Derby one for the books. Before it was over, the Papa Clem road show featured a cast of 49 friends and family, all of them treated to a high time in Louisville. “In fact, a couple drew in toward the end from the also-eligible list,” Hirsch said with a laugh. “It was amazing, when they found out the party was on me, the Bo-wagon.” To the delight of Hirsch and his cheering section, Papa Clem ran his heart out in the Derby.
It was Mine That Bird, on his way to winning by nearly seven lengths. “That’s when I started yelling, ‘C’mon, get second!’” Hirsch said. “I’m a realist. I can switch my root real fast. It’s so rare to see a horse perform like that against other good horses. It was remarkable.” Even though Papa Clem had to settle for fourth, beaten a nose and a head for second, there was no doubt the colt had taken his rightful place alongside such notable Hirsch family runners as Blue Reading, June Darling, Figonero, Snow Sporting, Magical Mile, and Magical Maiden. That Bo Hirsch was both able and inclined to pick up the torch for his late father is a tribute to the racing game he holds so dear. Hirsch, 60, is a fan through and through, a horseplayer who prowls the box seats and
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thrives on the mix of bona fide characters and passionate horse owners such as himself. However, even such a resilient, down-to-earth personality can feel bulldozed by the Derby. “I don’t want to call it a burnout, what you get at the Kentucky Derby,” Hirsch said. “But the anticipation, the realization, the whole scene—there is some pressure. Bob Baffert told me that I’d be able to relax and enjoy the Preakness, and he was right.” So the Bo-wagon was gassed up again? “Well, I decided to see how many good friends I have,” Hirsch said. “I said, ‘You’re all welcome to the Preakness. I’ll get you in, but
Strike broke his maiden at Santa Anita on Dec. 29, then threw a scare into Hollywood Futurity hero Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert B. Lewis Memorial in February, missing by just half a length. Papa Clem hit the road to be a distant second to Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Derby. After that came the Arkansas Derby. “When I think about this horse, and all he’s accomplished, I realize I’ve only been in the winner’s circle once, and that was Arkansas,” Hirsch said. “People who don’t know the business would come up to me after Kentucky and say, ‘Gee, I’m sorry you didn’t win the Derby.’ I
“The anticipation, the realization, the whole scene of the Derby—there is some pressure.”
getting there you’re on your own ticket.’ The numbers dropped dramatically.” Unfortunately, Papa Clem showed a similar attitude toward the second jewel of the crown. He raced within striking distance of Rachel Alexandra early and even put in a mini-move, but then he faded to sixth on the deep Pimlico sand. “I was disappointed in the Preakness,” Hirsch said. “I thought he’d light the board up. He’s such a competitive little sonofagun. The next day he almost seemed like he couldn’t look me in the eye. He looked so sad. And he lost a bunch of weight. But when you go from Louisiana to Arkansas to Kentucky to Baltimore, it’s going to take its toll.” It was, no question, a full-throated classic campaign for Papa Clem. The son of Smart
mean, after the Arkansas Derby, I’d already gone further that I thought I would.” Hirsch also got the full dose of Southern hospitality, Charlie Cella style. “I met him in the winner’s circle, then we went up to his private suite for drinks, with his 30 or 40 friends and my gang,” Hirsch said of Oaklawn’s famous owner. “He said, ‘I like you. You’re coming over to dinner.’ Yes sir. To his house right on the eighth pole. Dinner on the veranda, overlooking the track, and afterwards we all got up and sang ‘God Bless America.’ Twice. I was told we were lucky because usually it’s four or five times.” Hirsch returned to California a budding celebrity. “About a week before the Kentucky Derby I went to church,” he recalled. “I go about every
Miss Houdini, dam of Papa Clem, won the 2002 Del Mar Debutante, celebrated by trainer Warren Stute, jockey Gary Stevens, Del Mar’s Joe Harper, Bo Hirsch, and Hirsch’s family, daughter Hayley and wife Candy.
“Papa Clem is such a competitive little sonofagun.”
third Sunday—I should go more often—so I’m sitting there, and I hear Papa Clem...from the pulpit! “It was that part of the service where the minister talked about affairs of the day, and he wanted to make note of an article he read in the paper, and how wonderful it was the horse was named after my father, and next Saturday he would be running in the Derby. “I was just sitting there with my mouth open,” Hirsch added, still amazed. “I thought, ‘Is there no escape? It’s just supposed to be 15 minutes of fame. Give me a break here!’ I was just going to church to get a little fuel.” At first, in his early 20s, Hirsch was a stockbroker. But the timing was wrong. “It was 1972, ’73, and the market had gone from a thousand to 600,” Hirsch recalled. “When my mother quit answering my calls, I
“I started going to the library, cooking every chili that was ever cooked. I spent six months doing that, every day. And yes, it got to point where I could taste a recipe just looking at it. We ended up re-developing a line, and it took off.” Six months. There must have been side effects. “Well, I lost my hair,” Hirsch replied. “And I got in the horse business.” Hirsch and his half-brother Greg Hirsch ended up running the Stagg Chili line of products, and in October 1996 Hormel bought them out for $50 million in cash and stock. This in turn gave Bo Hirsch plenty of time for golf, family, and the races. Not long after his father’s death, in March of 2000, Bo purchased six horses from the Hirsch estate, including Miss Houdini, dam of Papa Clem. Hirsch currently has a stable of 15, both
Papa Clem looks over his Preakness souvenir webbing and gallops out with I Want Revenge at Santa Anita after a good second to Pioneerof the Nile in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
knew it was time to get out of that business. My father was out of the pet food business by then and started another food business. “The guy who ran it for him thought I’d fit really well, but as soon as my father heard about it, he fired me. He said the last thing he wanted was a son in the business, but we were able to convince him it was a good thing for me.” The younger Hirsch was pointed at the Stagg Foods chili project, which grew out of Clement’s earlier idea to can and market the worldrenowned chili served at Los Angeles’ famous Chasen’s restaurant. “I didn’t know anything about chili, but what we’d come up with was just too expensive,” Hirsch recalled. “I said if we could take this from a Rolls-Royce to a Cadillac, I think we can sell it.” It became his baby.
runners and breeding stock, with three mares boarded in Kentucky. “My dad was a realist,” Hirsch said. “I can’t tell you how many times I saw a horse of his finish up the track, and he’d turn and say, ‘Well, she’s no good.’ Then he’d be back trying again and again. You’ve got to be an optimist in this business or you’re going to be a very depressed individual most of the time.” What Papa Clem does on the racetrack in the future and whether he will compete in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup during the Oak Tree meet remains to be seen. He could never run another race and still have Bo Hirsch’s undying gratitude. “I’m very happy I gave this horse my dad’s name,” Hirsch said. “I got away with it. And I hope it’s not the end of him. I hope he stays sound because I plan to run him and I hope to win a few
OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
“I’m very happy I gave this horse my dad’s name.”
more races. But if nothing else, I know the odds are very slim to get a horse to the Derby at all. “The biggest thing I got out of it has been the reaction of my wife, Candy,” Hirsch added. “She is really starting to fall in love with the business, especially the breeding side.” Before the Derby, Candy Hirsch took her husband to the Kentucky Derby Museum and gave special attention to the tiered display representing a given Thoroughbred foal crop. “You see this first layer,” she said. “These are the approximately 35,000 Thoroughbreds born www.oaktreeracing.com
every year. The next layer is those that ever make it to the races. The next one is only the horses who have won a race. And then there’s that teeny piece on the top—the 20 horses who make it to the Kentucky Derby.” Bo Hirsch got the point. “You’ve done all right, kid,” Candy said. “You’ve done all right.”
Magical Mile, a halfbrother to Papa Clem’s granddam, was one of Clement Hirsch’s stakes winners (top), and Papa Clem is continuing his family’s winning tradition.
Jay Hovdey, a four-time Eclipse Award-winning writer, is the executive columnist for Daily Racing Form. PADDOCK 2009
A Chance to See Living Legends Oak Tree hosted a unique race in 2008 that brought together eight Hall of Fame former jockeys.
Gary Stevens, who rode Seabiscuit in the movie as George Woolf, rides again with fellow Hall of Famers Laffit Pincay Jr., Pat Day, Sandy Hawley, Jacinto Vasquez, Julie Krone, Chris McCarron, Jerry Bailey, Eddie Delahoussaye, and Jorge Velasquez.
ot even a Breeders’ Cup race could gather the number of Hall of Fame jockeys who rode in a seven-furlong allowance/optional claiming event on Oct. 18 of the 2008 Oak Tree meeting. The occasion was a race appropriately named the Living Legends, and it was a chance to bring eight great jockeys out of retirement for one spectacular last hurrah. Sandy Hawley won aboard Tribal Chief. But fans enjoyed seeing them all, from locals Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, and Julie Krone to Midwest and Eastern riders Jerry Bailey, Pat Day, Angel Cordero Jr., and Jacinto Vasquez. Laffit Pincay Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye, and Jorge Velasquez did not ride, but joined the group as ambassadors. Even Hall of Famer Milo Valenzuela participated in the winner’s circle ceremonies.
The fun began the day before at Clockers’ Corner, when the riders—ranging in age from 45 to 65—exchanged quips, especially about Cordero’s penchant of herding other jockeys. “Unfortunately, Angel has the outside post, and he loves to ride a couple of horses,” said Delahoussaye. “I hope he doesn’t change— that’s what made him a great rider. He knew where his competition was.” The Living Legends race meant as much to Stevens as did his first Santa Anita ride at age 16. “I’ve still got that overnight, being next to Bill Shoemaker, McCarron was on the overnight, Darrel McHargue, Fernando Toro—all these great legends that I’d grown up watching,” he said. “I’m going to have [today’s] overnight right next to that first one that I have.” The race was an actual pari-mutuel event that OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
“I love the fans here. It’s great to be back.” —Sandy Hawley
Hawley rounds the turn en route to a win with Tribal Chief, while Pincay shared memories with Milo Valenzuela. Day, McCarron, Velasquez, Krone, Oak Tree’s Sherwood Chillingworth, Delahoussaye, and Angel Cordero Jr. gather at Clockers’ Corner. would count on the jockeys’ lifetime records and on the past performances of the horses in the race. Tribal Chief was a front-runner for trainer John Sadler, and Hawley put the 4-yearold gelding on the lead. Bailey on morning-line favorite Dee Dee’s Legacy closed ground around the turn and into the stretch, but Hawley opened up to win by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:21.03. Krone dismounted after the race with a huge grin and said, “I want to do this again.” Despite finishing next to last when his mount, Waafi, bled, McCarron was just as enthusiastic. “That was such a blast,” he said. “I beat Cordero. That was my only goal.” Fans had lined up for autographs earlier in the day, and they made the most impression on Hawley, who rode on the Southern California circuit for 20 years. “I love the fans here,” he said. “Even when you lose, they never get very upset with you. It’s great to be back.” For David and Herb Alpert, the owners of Tribal Chief, the win was particularly sweet. “This means a lot to us,” said David Alpert, “because Sandy Hawley back in 1977 won three races in a row for us on Hello Hostess, in April, May, and June.” Hawley’s victory pushed his win record to 6,450. “I always hoped to get to ’50, but I never thought I’d do it,” said Hawley. The Living Legends ride gave him that chance. www.oaktreeracing.com
No Silencing t he seemingly impossible occurred earlier this year in a neighborhood near Santa Anita. Bob Baffert went silent. Bound for an evening meal at a Mexican restaurant, Baffert was interrupted by a congratulatory phone call from an official with the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Silver Charm and Real Quiet, two of Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby winners, turn in a rare workout against each other.
“Bob,” he was told, “you’ve been elected to the Hall of Fame, but we need you to keep it a secret until next week.” It was one of those moments that a Thoroughbred trainer dreams of, and the loquacious Baffert—he of the familiar white head of hair, sharp wit, and stable full of famous Thoroughbreds—was denied one of the other things he does best. Talk.
“They said I’d have to keep it quiet,” he lamented. Someone had finally silenced the man, or so they thought. Baffert knew two people with whom he could safely share his secret and release the excitement accompanying one of his greatest professional achievements. He called home, to Nogales, Ariz., and told his elderly parents, Bill Sr. and Ellie. Two days later his mom called him back. “When are they going to announce it?” she asked. Ellie Baffert wanted to share it with her friends. “She wanted to tell everyone at the hairdresser,” Baffert recalled. “I said, ‘You can tell them, just don’t tell anyone at the Racing Form.’” With that, the Baffert secret was safe for a few days, until the formal announcement. Bob Baffert, the winner of three Kentucky Derbies, three-time winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding trainer, and trainer of 10 national champions who have accounted for 13 titles, was part of Thoroughbred racing’s history. Baffert, 56, who began training Thoroughbreds in the late 1980s when he was more active in Quarter Horse racing, had reached a career goal. “I always thought I’ll be there someday,” he said. “When I think of Hall of Fame, I think of old guys. When I got the nomination, it didn’t hit me for a couple of hours.” Bob Baffert in 2009 is much different from Bob Baffert in 1989, when he had only a few Thoroughbreds in his care and spent most of his time at Los Alamitos. But it was during that time that he began a slow transition to Thoroughbred racing, expanding his holdings to include better horses. By 1991, he was spending more time with his Thoroughbreds and leaving his Quarter Horse operation to assistants. Baffert had watched D. Wayne Lukas make
OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Beginning with California Cup victories, trainer Bob Baffert added Breedersâ€™ Cups and Triple Crown race wins to earn entry into the Hall of Fame. BY STEVE ANDERSEN
Photo by Adam Coglianese
The Baffert year starts the day after the Belmont Stakes.
Baffert at Clockers’ Corner (clockwise from top); stable star Point Given, who was voted 2001 Horse of the Year; and longtime client and friend Mike Pegram (right) receiving Silverbulletday’s Hall of Fame plaque from Brad McKinzie.
the same transition with tremendous success and finally sought that Hall of Famer’s advice. “Wayne said, ‘Do you still have Quarter Horses?’” Baffert recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t give them up.’ “He said, ‘I was the same way. The day you give them up, your business here will double.’” Success at the 1991 Oak Tree meeting clinched his decision. Baffert won three California Cup races, including the Classic with Charmonnier. At the time, it was his greatest accomplishment in Thoroughbred racing. That evening, he won two Quarter Horse stakes at Los Alamitos, but he did not feel the same level of fulfillment. At 12:15 on a Sunday morning, less than 12 hours after Charmonnier’s win, Baffert stood in the winner’s circle at Los Alamitos and said it was over. It was time to make the switch. “After I won the three California Cup races, I went down [to Los Alamitos] and I didn’t feel there was any excitement for me.” The transition was far from his original mindset when Baffert arrived in California from Arizona in the preceding decade. “I didn’t like Thoroughbreds,” he said. “In Arizona, they were
the cheaper horses.” When he made the switch to Thoroughbreds in 1991, he used to tell his friends he was one meet away from a breakthrough. “I’m going to have a big Del Mar,” he’d say during the Hollywood Park summer meeting. “I’m going to have a big Oak Tree,” he’d say during Del Mar. The 1991 season was his first year to crack $1 million in stable earnings. In 1992, he had his first success on the national stage, winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Gulfstream Park with Thirty Slews. “He was the first Thoroughbred I bought at auction,” Baffert said. “He was a good horse. I learned a lot from him.” The next few years were a touch on the quiet side. The stable won races but did not have nationwide success. Some of his old Quarter Horse friends wondered if he had made a mistake. Baffert was undeterred. “Wait until Hollywood,” he said. “Wait until Del Mar,” he said. The breakthrough came during the 1994-95 Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, when he won his first Thoroughbred training title. The next few years set the foundation for an event that has defined his career, and the way he runs his stable today. Baffert won the Santa Anita Derby with Cavonnier and had found his first Kentucky Derby starter. At Churchill Downs, Cavonnier took the lead in the stretch and led to the final strides before the fast-finishing Grindstone put his head down a nose in front at the wire. Baffert lost, but was hooked. He won the next two Kentucky Derbies, with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998, and was a nose away from the Triple Crown with Real Quiet, who barely lost the Belmont Stakes to Victory Gallop. There is the lunar year, the fiscal year, and the Baffert year. The Baffert year starts the day after the Belmont Stakes. Its major holidays are Kentucky Derby Day, Preakness Day, and Belmont Stakes Day, the days that Baffert wants his stable to shine. The first day of the Baffert year is the moment when the focus shifts toward the 2-year-olds that can compete in the following year’s Triple Crown. “It switches like it’s Jan.1,” he said. “I watch the Belmont and say, ‘We’ll it’s over. It’s a new year.’ ” In the late 1990s and earlier in this decade, deep-pocketed clients such as Mike Pegram, Bob and Beverly Lewis, John and Betty Mabee, and Ahmed Salman’s Thoroughbred Corp. kept Baffert busy with top-class Triple Crown prospects, as well as a few other champions. Baffert won the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the 1999 Kentucky Oaks with Pegram’s Silverbulletday, OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Photo by Adam Coglianese
another inductee to the Hall of Fame this year. The Lewises owned Silver Charm, who later won the 1998 Dubai World Cup. General Challenge carried the Mabees’ colors to wins in the 1999 Pacific Classic and 2000 Santa Anita Handicap, still Baffert’s only wins in those $1 million races. Salman, the colorful member of the Saudi Arabian royal family, was a perfect partner for Baffert—equally outgoing, dedicated to winning big races, and not afraid to spend significant sums to do so. In 2001, they campaigned Horse of the Year Point Given, who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby and swept the Preakness and Belmont. A month before the 2002 Kentucky Derby, Salman bought a majority share of Illinois Derby winner War Emblem and turned the colt over to Baffert. They pulled an upset in the Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness, but could only finish eighth in the Belmont after a poor start. Again, the Triple Crown had proved elusive. During those days, it seemed nothing could go wrong for Baffert, and then nearly all of it did. Baffert outlived his clients. John Mabee www.oaktreeracing.com
died in April 2002, Salman in July 2002, and Bob Lewis in February 2006. The sources for so many Derby prospects were gone. “Losing Thoroughbred Corp. was huge,” Baffert said. “He liked me for entertainment. He wanted to win the Derby so bad.” Baffert recalls a conversation with Salman when he was told to team with racing manager Richard Mulhall and pick five prospects for the stable. The horses were at a ranch near Santa Anita at the time. The first one Baffert chose was a colt by Wild Again. “He didn’t break his maiden,” Baffert said. “The second was Point Given. Mulhall said, ‘You won’t like this one. He’s by Thunder Gulch.’ I said, ‘I’ll take him anyway.’ ” With so many leading clients gone, Baffert’s stable slumped by its standards. Instead of earning more than $10 million annually, as it did from 1998-2002, it was down to only $9.4 million in 2003, $7.6 million in 2004, and $5.9 million in 2005. His impact on the Kentucky Derby went with it. After War Emblem’s win, Baffert did not have
Baffert sharing the enthusiasm of owner Ahmed Zayat (clockwise from top left); receiving his Hall of Fame jacket from D. Wayne Lukas; with owners Hal Earnhardt (left) and Mike Pegram; and holding Silver Charm with golf legend Gary Player and Silver Charm’s owner, the late Bob Lewis.
Baffert at his Santa Anita stable in the morning (clockwise from top left), with two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute, mugging for the camera with Bode, and sharing a moment with actor Henry Winkler.
a horse finish in the top three until Pioneerof the Nile finished second this year. In 2004, 2007, and 2008, he did not have a Kentucky Derby runner. “When you get successful and things start slowing down, people start talking,” Baffert said. The absence of success changed his outlook on the sport, according to his wife, Jill. They first met when she was a television commentator on a morning show in Louisville and he was the star trainer. They were married in 2002. The former Jill Moss was there for the success of Point Given and War Emblem and the lean years. When they first met, she noticed he contained his enthusiasm during races. The success was expected. “When I met Bob, he was at his pinnacle,” Jill said. “He’d win three or four races a day. He’d win a big race and he would barely crack a smile. I’d say, ‘You don’t cheer for your horses.’ He didn’t show that emotion.” The Baffert of the late 1990s was in his mid40s and loving the attention that accompanies frequent trips to the winner’s circle. No crowd of reporters hustle after a trainer at a Quarter
Horse race. His outlook was new to Thoroughbred racing, the wisecracking trainer who joked he was the only man in the barn area to catch part of “Good Morning America” on television and still make it to the barn. Eventually, though, the media tired of the act, the success dried up, and there was not much left to discuss. The big-time stakes winners were in other barns. “From being there and then not being there, he went through a dose of humble pie,” Jill said. “I think he appreciated it more.” His personal life changed again when Jill gave birth to their son, Bode, in 2005. Bode was Jill’s first child and Baffert’s fifth. Baffert’s four children from his first marriage, Taylor, Canyon, Forrest and Savannah, are young adults and teenagers. Canyon has followed his father and attended the University of Arizona. Bode already knows his way around Clockers’ Corner at Santa Anita and the box seats, accompanying his mother to watch morning training or a day of racing. Jill says that Bob’s involvement with his youngest son is different than with his older children. OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Today, the family lives near the racetrack. During his first marriage, Bob commuted more than an hour from Huntington Beach to Arcadia. “Racing takes up a lot of time,” Jill said. “He probably wasn’t the father he wanted to be. He was away a lot. The whole dynamic has changed. He’s older, and he’s closer to the track. He’s at an age when he can enjoy a child.” Still, an ornery and outspoken horse trainer can appear occasionally, she said. “I call him the kinder, gentler Bob,” Jill said. “He can be a bit abrasive. He speaks what he thinks. Sometimes he doesn’t think. I tell him I wish I had an edit button on him.” The seasons of eight-figure earnings have not returned, but there has been a new spark in Baffert during the last year. Longtime clients such as Pegram and Hal and Patti Earnhardt remain fixtures, while Ahmed Zayat has become a major supporter. Zayat owns such horses as Pioneerof the Nile, the winner of the 2009 Santa Anita Derby, who was retired in July due to a soft-tissue injury. Even with Zayat, Baffert has had a rocky relationship. In 2007, Zayat had a disagreement with Del Mar management over the condition of the track’s Polytrack synthetic surface and transferred his horses across the United States, to Saratoga. Baffert was a vocal critic of synthetic materials and, more importantly, how to adjust the day-to-day training of his stable to the surfaces. “I was scared,” he said. “I didn’t know what to think of the stuff. I had a 72-hour period when I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ I thought, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here. Just go.’ We went to New York, and boom, boom, boom. We started winning a little bit. I didn’t want to leave Del Mar. I love Del Mar.” Were it not for the brilliant upset by Mine That Bird, Baffert may have had a fourth Kentucky Derby this year. Instead, his focus is under way on the 2010 classics. On the Baffert calendar, Del Mar represents a time when the 2-year-olds began to show green shoots. Indian Blessing caught Baffert’s eye in the summer of 2007 and went on to be that year’s champion 2-year-old filly and the champion female sprinter of 2008. In the summer of 2008, a colt named Midshipman gave Baffert his record eighth win in the Del Mar Futurity. Midshipman later won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile during the Oak Tree meeting and was named champion 2-year-old male. “Del Mar is when they start to separate themselves,” Baffert said. “Indian Blessing wasn’t on the radar until the middle of Del Mar. www.oaktreeracing.com
“Once they get fit, you can ask them a little more and you see the cream start to separate. You have to be so patient with them. Midshipman wasn’t on the radar until Del Mar.” By the start of Oak Tree, Baffert has an everevolving list of Triple Crown possibilities. Aside from the Del Mar prospects, there are always a few late bloomers that could become important horses by winter. This year, Baffert has the added incentive of racing in the Breeders’ Cup at Oak Tree on Nov. 6-7, perhaps showcasing a future Derby horse. “What motivates him is the Triple Crown races, especially the Derby,” Jill said. “He eats and breathes and sleeps the Derby. The day after the Belmont, he’s grinning with excitement because the babies are in the barn. He’s got spring in his steps.” A Hall of Fame induction can help with that as well. Baffert said the news meant as much to the people around him as it did for him when the announcement was made in the spring. “Mike [Pegram] called me and he was more excited for me than for Silverbulletday,” Baffert said. “I think he was excited for me because he’d felt responsible for me. He was a financial backer of Bob Baffert.” The milestone does not mean Baffert no longer has goals to achieve. He has not been recognized with an Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding trainer since 1999, the third consecutive year he received such an honor. Then there is the Triple Crown. Three times he has awoken on the morning of the Belmont, wondering if he will be remembered as the mastermind of racing’s most cherished accomplishment. Three times the sun has set that evening with him wondering how to make that happen. Baffert craves another crack at the Triple Crown, knowing such an achievement is justification for a Hall of Fame induction. If it ever happens, he says he will walk away from the sport. “I’m going to get the Triple Crown,” he said. “If I do, I might quit training.” He remembers a long time ago saying he would do the same thing if he ever won the Kentucky Derby. More than a decade later, he is still in pursuit of that trophy. If Baffert won the Triple Crown, he wouldn’t go anywhere. By his watch, the new year would start the next day, and with it the goal of three more races far in the distance.
“Bob eats and breathes and sleeps the Derby.” —Jill Baffert
Baffert’s wife, Jill, enthusiastically supports the stable horses.
Steve Andersen is the Southern California correspondent for Daily Racing Form. PADDOCK 2009
It’s All About the Kids The Gregson Foundation recognized Mike and Mary Ellen Pegram’s efforts to help young people. BY TRACY GANTZ
Mary Ellen and Mike Pegram were honored at the Gregson Foundation dinner, which benefited such students as Roberto Mora, Jesus Morfin, Samuel Almaraz, and Saul V. Marquez, shown with Angie Carmona of CTT. Attendees at the dinner included Gail Gregson, Jack Robbins, Barbara Harper, and Doris Johnson (above right); Laffit Pincay Jr., Kathy Walsh, Tom Kessler, and Mike Smith (far right, top); racecaller and impersonator Frank Mirahmadi; Joe Harper, with Pegram and CTT’s Jim Cassidy and Jenine Sahadi; Gary Young, Ron Charles, and Mace Siegel; and Linda Kaufmann, Marietta Gelalich, Sahadi, Walsh, and Sheri Latiaan.
ike Pegram and Bob Baffert have teamed to win a Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup races, but one of their finest collaborations is their help in sending several young people to college. Sons and daughters of Baffert’s stable employees are only a few of the kids who benefit from Gregson Foundation scholarships, and Pegram and Baffert are among those on the backstretch who support the foundation’s work. Thus, when the foundation chose to honor Pegram and his wife, Mary Ellen, at its annual fund-raising dinner on April 13 in Pasadena, Calif., the Pegrams were only too happy to help. “Think about what everybody did tonight in coming here and supporting the youth,” Pegram said as he and Mary Ellen accepted the award. “The bottom line, that’s all it comes down to. If we take care of those kids on the backside, nothing but good things can happen.” The Pegrams make it a point to help children through a variety of causes, something the audience discovered not from them, but from several of their associates. “He’s a gentleman who does things simply because it’s the right thing to do,” said Lee Heriaud, a colleague of Pegram’s in the McDonald’s franchise business. “We just finished building a beautiful new Ronald McDonald house near the Children’s Hospital in Phoenix, with a lot of effort by Mike to raise the funds.” Heriaud spoke of Pegram’s work with the Boys & Girls Club, through other scholarship programs, as well as on behalf of children who are at risk or have been abused. “Mike steps up to the table and makes things possible that nobody else can,” Heriaud said. “We the McDonald’s operators raise our spatulas to the California Thoroughbred folks for honoring this gentleman and this lady tonight.” Baffert, who is usually quick with a joke, became serious when speaking about Pegram and especially the Gregson Foundation. OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
“It’s a great cause,” Baffert said. “The charity has been really great for the backstretch help.” Baffert especially singled out Jenine Sahadi, the foundation’s president, for her tireless efforts on behalf of backstretch workers’ children. Oak Tree annually supports the Gregson Foundation, not only through direct contributions, but by buying tables to the annual dinner. It is these types of donations that allows the foundation to award annual scholarships. Teens who are benefiting from these scholarships include Joseph Aragon, son of Pepe Aragon of the Baffert stable; Jenee Brittney Barnes, daughter of Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes and exercise rider Dana Barnes; and Maria Isabel Landeros Trujillo, whose father, Roman, is a groom for Baffert. Joseph is studying journalism and communications at Cal State Los Angeles. “Studying the past has allowed me to do what I enjoy most by researching and analyzing historic sources, while developing my own ideas and opinions on that source,” Joseph said. “I see myself one day as an investigative journalist or possibly teaching history or English.” Jenee hopes to go on to law school after obtaining her degree in political science at the University of California at San Diego. “I plan to be a lifelong activist,” Jenee said, “working for nonprofit organizations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International to help change the inequalities that threaten the world.” The late trainer Eddie Gregson was instrumental in getting a scholarship program off the ground through California Thoroughbred Trainers, and after he died in 2000, the program was named for him. The Gregson Foundation helps kids not only continue their education in this country, but elsewhere. Maria Trujillo is majoring in business administration at the Universidad Metropolitana de Centro in Mexico. “I see myself in a positive work environment,” Maria said, “where I can further advance the skills I have learned at the university and, ultimately, become a successful businesswoman.” It is success stories such as these that bring hundreds of people in the California Thoroughbred industry together every year at the Gregson dinner. Yet though the cause is serious, the festivities are not without their lighter moments. Perhaps the highlight of this year’s dinner was racecaller Frank Mirahmadi, who specializes in impersonations. He created a fictitious Mike Pegram Invitational of Pegram’s best stakes horses. In the voices of Quarter Horse announcer Ed Burgart and Thoroughbred callers Dave Johnson, Mike Battaglia, Trevor Denman, and the late Luke Kruytbosch, Mirahmadi brought the horses down to the wire. He mimicked Rodney Dangerfield in the final strides, when new Hall of Famer Silverbulletday edged out Real Quiet, with Midnight Lute third. Denman, who emceed the dinner, stood behind Mirahmadi, laughing as he enjoyed the parody. The crowd loved each impersonation, though the loudest applause came for Mirahmadi’s rendition of Kruytbosch, a good friend of Pegram’s who died at age 47 in mid-2008. Brad McKinzie has known Pegram for more than 25 years, when the owner raced Quarter Horses, and McKinzie had fun roasting his friend during the dinner. “I tried to talk him into buying into Los Alamitos to run Thoroughbred racing, and he hasn’t spoken to me since,” he said. McKinzie also recalled the night Pegram’s Real Quiet won the Kentucky Derby. “We wanted to stay up till 2 a.m.,” McKinzie said. “We were staying at the Executive West, so it cost like 25 bucks to get the band to stay another four hours. About 5:30 in the morning, we’re still going strong, but we’ve lost Mike.” McKinzie and his pals discovered Pegram sitting on the hood of his car with a six-pack of beer in the hotel parking lot. “He just looked at us, and he said, ‘Boys, I just don’t ever want this day to end.’” www.oaktreeracing.com
Mom, Can I Work Robbins Dr. Jack
Jay Robbin s
o one ever told Tom Robbins the job of racing secretary was going to be easy. But not even the youngest son of Oak Tree Racing Association’s president and founding director, Dr. Jack Robbins, could have envisioned the encounter he would have with a heavy-hitting trainer one morning during a particularly wet winter at Santa Anita. The track had been hit hard by back-to-back storms, leaving it with a horribly muddy racing surface. Robbins was struggling to put a card together and was very close when the cocky trainer walked into his office ready to play a little game of Let’s Make a Deal. “He told me if we didn’t use a certain extra race that day, he was going to take his horses out of some other races that we had scheduled and had just barely [filled],” Robbins recalled. “Well, as somebody in my position, you try to keep your cool as much as you can, but at that point you’re struggling with the weather, a muddy racetrack, lack of entries, and I lost it. I said, ‘That’s fine, and you’ve got 24 hours to get every one of your horses out of here.’ “He looked at me, walked out of the office, and went out to where all the jockey agents were assembled. They all knew why he’d come in. They said, ‘How did it go?’ He said, ‘Well, [Robbins] told me if I do that, I’ve got 24 hours to get my horses off the property.’ He looked at the people and said, ‘He can’t do that, can he?’ My assistant looked at him
Tom Robbins and said, ‘No, he really has to give you 48 hours.’ ” Robbins became the racing secretary at Oak Tree in 1982 and served in that capacity until 1999, when he left to concentrate solely on his current position as racing secretary at Del Mar. He’s part of the Robbins legacy at Oak Tree, which also includes his father and Jack’s eldest son, Jay, best known as the trainer of Tiznow, the only horse to win consecutive Breeders’ Cup Classics. The Robbinses are the most influential multi-generational family that Oak Tree has seen as it prepares for its 41st season of Thoroughbred racing. Jack Robbins is one of the most respected names in the industry. His distinguished titles and accomplishments as a veterinarian are as well known among Southern California horsemen as that familiar smell of freshly brewed coffee along the Santa Anita backstretch each morning. It’s the same backside that Robbins misses so much since he retired 25 years ago. “There’s a lot of romance back there, and the challenge of maintaining soundness and bringing horses along as a veterinarian to their best efforts, I miss that part of it too,” he said. In addition to Tom and Jay, Jack and Margaret Robbins have two other sons—Don, a former president and general manager of Hollywood Park, and David, the second youngest, who has handled legal matters for many South-
OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
at the Track, Too? Many Oak Tree employees have followed relatives into racetrack jobs. BY ART WILSON
. aines Sr George H The Robbins
ern California trainers. Tom Robbins recalls many spirited holiday dinners when his dad would relish sticking the needle in and getting everyone riled up. “My being at Santa Anita and my brother Don being at Hollywood, we always didn’t see things eye-to-eye,” Tom Robbins said. “And, of course, brother Jay, he came up with a totally different perspective, so we had some pretty lively family gatherings because we had a few hot tempers in the family. It was a little tough on my mom.” But the four siblings always had their brotherly love to fall back on. “I remember it was the Santa Anita Handicap, but it was one of those years where again you tear your hair out with rainfall and what rain could do to a big day,” Tom Robbins said. “Somebody walked up to [Jay] and said, ‘Your brother is totally fretting over this. It’s pouring rain; it’s Santa Anita Handicap day; what are you going to do? He’s going to kill himself.’ Jay looked at the guy and said, ‘ That’s all right. I’ve got two other brothers.’ ” Other Santa Anita employees who are part of multi-generational families that have worked during the Oak Tree meet include:
George H aines
Jr. GEORGE HAINES Santa Anita Vice President & General Manager Haines, whose father, George, was pari-mutuel manager at Santa Anita from 1954-84, has fond memories of the days he’d go to the track with his dad. “I can even remember coming over on Christmas Eve, getting set up for Santa Anita and being with my dad. They were getting ready to open on [Dec. 26], and I was worried about getting home in time for Santa Claus,” Haines recalled. He also remembers a day when he was mutuel manager (1984-99) and encountered an older lady sitting on the stairs. “It looked like she had collapsed, and I asked her if she had a problem,” Haines said. “She said, ‘No, but I think I might have just hit the Pick Six.’ Well, it was hard for me to believe that, and I said, ‘Let me see your ticket.’ I looked at the ticket, and sure enough she had all six winners on a $2 ticket. She said she bet all her favorite names, and it paid like $300,000. “The thing I remember is that she never said that she was going to do anything for herself. She was going to put a new roof on her daughter’s house. It was something for everybody else.” PADDOCK 2009
Mom, Can I Work at the Track, Too?
GEORGEANNA ARIAS Usher in owner-trainer section Arias, who has held her current position since 1998 after previously selling the Racing Digest and working in patron services, received a valuable lesson in life early on— be careful who you deal with. Seems her father, George Miller, had a brush with famous gangster Bugsy Siegel and lived to tell about it. “My dad was a middleman for this bookie,” Arias recalled. “People would call him, and he’d call in the bet to the bookie. One day, somebody called him to make a bet, and my dad said he couldn’t get it in, that the race was already running. The person said, ‘You better get this bet in.’ Sure enough, he didn’t get the bet in, and it turns out the bet was for Bugsy Siegel and the horse won. “The guy called back, and my dad didn’t believe him. ‘Yeah, yeah, sure. Who you trying to kid? You don’t scare me.’ Then Bugsy himself called, and my dad still didn’t think it was Bugsy Siegel so he talked back to him. ‘You wanna make a bet, get your own damn bookie.’ I mean, really telling him off, and he’s talking to this gangster. “I think it was a couple of days later somebody called him and said, ‘Ya know, that really was Bugsy Siegel, and he wants to talk to you again.’ He called my dad back, and he said, ‘Ya know, don’t worry about the bet, but nobody usually talks to me like that and I respect you for talking back to me.’ I thought he’d probably get killed afterwards, but no, everything was fine. They turned out to be good friends.”
Arias’ son, Alfredo, is Santa Anita’s admissions manager, meaning he’s his mother’s boss when the horses are running in Arcadia. She’s surprised her son chose the racetrack as a profession after his childhood days. “He hated [the racetrack] when he was little,” said Arias, whose ex-husband, Alfredo Arias Sr., is a former jockey who rode one meeting at Oak Tree. “He’d have to come with me to work. I’d be selling the Digest, and I’d put him down in that booth and put my knees there and say, ‘Don’t you move!’ “I thought he’d never work a racetrack, and now look at him. I’m so proud of him because everybody seems to really enjoy him as a supervisor. A lot of them knew him when he was in the second grade running around, and now he’s their supervisor.”
“I thought he’d never work a racetrack, and now look at him. I’m so proud of him.”
DAVE CARTER Usher, gate man, and elevator operator Carter has to make the drive every racing day from San Jacinto to Arcadia, the only drawback to what he says has been an enjoyable 40 years of working at Santa Anita. He doesn’t bet and considers himself lucky that he’s not one of the many track employees who have left a good portion of their paychecks at the mutuel windows. There was an afternoon, r e t r a however, when he wishes he’d C Everett had a little bit more gambler in him. “I used to get a lot of tickets bought for me,” Carter said. “I’d be like, ‘Oh, thank you, Joe, thanks a lot.’ Then I’d turn around and cash them before the race went. Well, I cashed an Exacta ticket back in that turned out to be worth $389 for the $5. I can laugh about it 20 years later, but at the time it was nauseating.” Carter’s dad, Everett, was an excellent handicapper who had $50 across the board on J.O. Tobin when he upset the heavily favored Seattle Slew in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park in 1977. Everett Carter worked as a page, gate person, and bet
r with a runner in the race fan directors’ room at Santa Anita, paving the way for his son to carve out his own career at the track. Dave Carter doesn’t expect his own son, Caleb, to follow in his footsteps, however. “He came out a number of times with my daughter,” Carter said. “My friends would all buy them tickets, sodas, and hot dogs. It was a win-win deal because they didn’t bring a nickel with them but they always left with money and a full belly. My son came out once later—he was probably about 18—didn’t have a very good day, and of course he was financing it himself this time. It left a very bitter taste in his mouth. He hasn’t been back since.”
DEBRA HAINES Program seller Perhaps everyone in Haines’ family should have taken a liking to the 1970s American rock group called the Cars. Seems most everyone in the family worked in parking at one time or another at Southern California’s three major racetracks. Haines’ father, Homer Chavis, and her uncle, Frank Harvey, both worked in parking when Del Mar first opened its gates on July 3, 1937. Both of her grandfathers? You guessed it. They worked in parking at Santa Anita, as did her brother, Daniel Chavis. Her dad started the first valet service at Santa Anita in 1940. “He used to take people in his own car out to their cars,” she said. “My dad raised three kids while working in the parking lot, and he never missed a day, not one day of work. “After he retired, he would say to me when I started working at Santa
Anita, ‘C’mon, Deb, take the day off and let’s go fishing. I’ll even pay ya.’ That always cracked me up because he never missed a day of work.” Debra Haines started in 1974 as the elevator operator in the Santa Anita clubhouse. She also worked as an usher and a gate person before her current job as program seller. She has fond memories of all the great people she’s met at the track. Two really stand out. “The nicest, sweetest man I ever met was Walter Matthau,” she said. “He loved the horses, and he was a sweetheart. If someone would walk up to him and ask him for an autograph or whatever, he was just a really neat guy. He was a very down-to-earth, everyday guy. He’ll always stand out in my mind. “And [former Santa Anita president] Robert Strub was so classy. I was the gate man on the clubhouse gate, and he walked up to me one day and didn’t have his credential button. I said, ‘Excuse me, do you have a hand stamp?’ I didn’t recognize him because I was pretty new there. He said, ‘Well, I don’t have it.’ “There was a guy working like five feet away from me, and he said, ‘That’s Mr. Strub. He’s okay.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ Well, he walked all the way back down, which is like the whole stretch of the racetrack, to get his button to show me. I thought that was so classy of him.”
aines Debra H
Dave Ca rte
Mom, Can I Work at the Track, Too? NANCY HERNANDEZ Usher A woman who enjoys talking and listening to people, which makes her a natural for the job, Hernandez remembers Bill Shoemaker and others pulling pranks on her dad, Rene Vazquez, who was the chef in the Santa z e d n Anita jockeys’ room a n er Nancy H beginning in the early 1980s. “My dad would be asleep, lying down in one of the beds, and the jockeys would fill his hands with whipped cream or shaving cream so as he would wake up,
ROGER JONES Wardrobe Any track employees who need help with their uniforms, see Roger Jones, who started in the mutuel department in 1964 before being transferred to his current position in 1992. But his job entails much more than just making sure the shirts are clean and the pants are pressed. “This is like being a psychiatrist or a bartender,” Jones said. “I hear everybody’s woes, and I hear everybody’s great days, wonderful things about their children, and so forth. All the employees, whether it’s a valet, an usher, or a security guard, I’ve heard every story under the sun. Maybe I missed my calling. Maybe I should have been a bartender or a therapist.”
he would get it all over his face,” Hernandez said. “They were always pulling these little stunts on each other. It was always something.” Rene Va The leader of the brigade? zquez wit h Bill None other than the quiet, reserved Shoemaker. “Shoemaker was quite a prankster,” she said. “He loved playing jokes.” It was Shoemaker who helped Hernandez land her first job in the industry at Hollywood Park in 1985. She’s still going strong and likes the “fun atmosphere” that the track offers.
Shoemak Jones’father,Charles er and N ancy’s m Jones, was a jockey om (1947-58) who followed the circuit, riding at tracks like Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Caliente before suffering a career-ending back injury. He then became a pony boy until he died at age 50 of a heart attack while ponying a horse in front of the Santa Anita grandstand. Jones’ mother, Terry Jones, worked in catering at the track from 1954 until her retirement in 1998. She was part of the group that founded the Winners Foundation, which cares for people at the track who have had problems with drug and alcohol abuse.
Roge r Jo
ne s Terry Jon es
LAURA KNISLEY Program seller Knisley’s father, Ray Ellis, began working at Santa Anita in 1979, when he retired as Monrovia police chief. His first job at the track was heading a substation located in the tunnel by the executive offices where security officers would bring drunks and troublemakers on Laura Knisley their way to being booked. When track management closed down the substation, he went into traffic control in the operations office. Sherry Ellis, Knisley’s mom, ran the turf club elevator for the entire 20 years she worked at Santa Anita. Unlike her parents, Knisley didn’t like working indoors. She loves being outside and selling programs. Her fondest memories are all the
different people she’s met and the chance to work with her parents. “I don’t have any of those old-time stories like the older folks, but I’ve had a good time doing what I’m doing and I’m going to keep on doing it as long as they’ll let me,” Knisley said.
Sherry and Ray Ellis
son icchia and r a L y r r a L
LARRY LARICCHIA Usher If you’re near the owner-trainer boxes and hear folks laughing, chances are 85-year-old Laricchia has just told one of the countless jokes that trainers like Doug O’Neill and Jack Carava enjoy hearing so much. “I’m going strongly toward 86,” Laricchia said proudly. “It’s better than staying home. Until they kick me out or carry me out, I’ll be working. I call it work, but it’s not work. It’s actually entertaining with family and friends and
everything else.” Laricchia’s son, Joseph, started as an usher at Santa Anita before moving to Hollywood Park and becoming a gate person. Laricchia’s wife, Rae, was an usher before she retired eight years ago. Laricchia, who began at Santa Anita in 1972, likes to recount a story from the 1970s, when a rare storm dropped snow at the bottom of the San Gabriel Mountains. “This friend of mine comes in with two crutches, and I said, ‘What the hell happened to you?’ ” Laricchia said. “He told me, ‘I work in construction, and I fell and broke both legs. They gave me $600 to use during my time off. I’m gonna bet it on a horse, and if he wins, I’ll make a lot of money. If he loses, I’ve got nothing to lose. I can’t go anyplace anyway.’ “There was a horse with a name that had something to do with snow, and he bet the whole $600 on it. It won and paid $78, and he won quite a big chunk of money. If I hadn’t been there to see it, I would not have believed it myself.” His friend collected $17,400 that day, but it’s Laricchia who has acquired a fortune’s worth of lifetime friends and fond memories. Art Wilson is a horse-racing writer for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.
Back-to-Back Oak Tree on Nov. 6–7 will become the first to host consecutive Breeders’ Cups, following the successful two-day event in 2008. BY TRACY GANTZ
Raven’s Pass and Zenyatta were two of the equine stars at the 2008 Breeders’ Cup. Those in attendance included Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Greg Avioli and Bo Derek, while jockey Garrett Gomez won four of the races.
ow can the Oak Tree Racing Association top its two-day hosting of Breeders’ Cup 25 in 2008? By doing it even better in 2009, when Oak Tree on Nov. 6-7 will become the first ever to host back-to-back Breeders’ Cup events. It’s a difficult challenge considering the caliber of racing last Oct. 24-25. “Last year’s Breeders’ Cup was an unqualified success on many different levels,” said Greg Avioli, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. “We had spectacular international racing over the two days for our 25th running. “Second, the two-day concept, featuring the first ever all-female major stakes program in racing history, was very well received. Fans responded by wagering more than $47 million, a record for a Friday program, highlighted by the outstanding performance by Zenyatta in the Ladies’ Classic. The starring role of the European horses further enhanced the global reach of the Championships with five victories by horses based overseas.” Raven’s Pass and Conduit, two of those Europeans, dominated action on the second day by capturing the $5 million Classic and $3 million Turf, respectively. But it wasn’t just the action on the track that made Breeders’ Cup 2008 special. In addition to every track employee stepping up to help fans enjoy the day, Oak Tree recruited well over 200 volunteers. “Everyone complimented us on how graciously the volunteers treated everyone,” said Sherwood C. Chillingworth, Oak Tree’s Executive Vice-President. “We trained the volunteers
earlier in the meeting so that they would know exactly where to take people to their boxes and direct them to any part of the facility.” Oak Tree and Santa Anita management worked hard to ensure that everyone had a pleasant experience. Food and betting lines were short, and mutuel clerks were friendly and helpful. It’s that type of special treatment that has made Oak Tree such a popular Breeders’ Cup host. This will be the fifth time Oak Tree has put on the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, having begun in 1986 and continuing in 1993, 2003, and again last year. “The Oak Tree Racing Association was an outstanding host of last year’s event, topping their performance of the three previous occasions in which the event was held at Santa Anita,” said Avioli. “We have never had two events in a row at the same track, and it is with great confidence in Oak Tree and Santa Anita that we look forward to returning. “Recognizing the effects of the economic downturn in the Southern California marketplace, we worked together to reduce the price of the tickets in most areas, and made single-day ticket sales for Friday and Saturday available throughout the facility. We also cut general admission price in half from $20 to $10. With
OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Distaffers making a splash included Goldikova (top), Ventura (above left), and Stardom Bound.
these changes and the top international fields for all 14 races, we’re looking forward to a second consecutive year of great racing.” Not only do owners and trainers bring horses from around the country to Breeders’ Cup, but Santa Anita has also proved popular with Europeans. The British in particular love to come to Santa Anita, especially now that it has a synthetic surface on the main track.
John Gosden, who trained Raven’s Pass and spent several years in Southern California before he returned to his native England in 1988, spoke highly of the Santa Anita surface. “You can be on the lead, you can come from off the pace, and it’s very kind on the horses,” Gosden said. “They just bounce off it. If I was told that I only had one surface that I could train on and race on for the rest of my career, I wouldn’t
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be far off picking that main track at Santa Anita.” Zenyatta received a standing ovation in front of a crowd of 31,257 when she rolled from last to first in the Ladies’ Classic on Friday. The next day, 51,321 fans saw the likes of European superstar Goldikova and two winners from Bob Baffert’s barn—Midnight Lute and Midshipman. As the 2008 performances pass into Breeders’ Cup legend, horses from around the country
and across the ocean are already preparing for the 2009 races. “We are anticipating a Breeders’ Cup this year that will rival that of 2008,” said Chillingworth. “I think everyone who comes out to watch these races in person is going to see some incredible performances. From a spectator perspective, we are going to do whatever we can to make sure they have the time of their lives.”
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talks with Kurt Russell; John Ferguson, Frankie Dettori, Rachel Hood, and John Gosden celebrate Raven’s Pass’ victory; Conduit captured the Breeders’ Cup Turf (above left); and Midnight Lute won the Sprint.
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Excelling Everywhere Defending Oak Tree jockey champ Rafael Bejarano began his Southern California onslaught by winning every major title in 2008. BY STEVE SCHUELEIN
hree co-owners gathered in the walking ring before a stakes race at Hollywood Park this summer and awaited jockey Rafael Bejarano. “He’s already won three today; you don’t need to tell him anything,” said one of the owners. “You know what you tell him? Good luck!” Bejarano strode to his mount from the jockeys’ room, greeted the owners, and listened to brief instructions from trainer Doug O’Neill. “The consensus was don’t tell Rafael anything,” said O’Neill to the attentive rider. “Just win.” By winning with rapid-fire frequency since his arrival on the Southern California circuit less than two years ago, Bejarano has quickly earned the type of admiration and respect reserved for the elite in the sport. O’Neill, one of the leading trainers in Southern California during the past decade, is among the many horsemen impressed by the 27-yearold Peruvian native. “He acts like a guy with the freshness and eagerness of his first day on the job,” said O’Neill. “Whether it’s working a horse or riding, he tries to please. He has that special ‘it’ factor, and horses run for the guy. You feel that much better about your chances when he’s riding.” Southern California has been blessed with a bonanza of riding stars through the years, but rarely one that has become so dominant so quickly. Bejarano swept meet titles at all five major stops on the circuit last year in his first full campaign on the West Coast, only the third rider to claim the rare quintet. “He was a good rider when he came,” said Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. “Now he’s a world-class rider.” Combine the hands of Bill Shoemaker with the work ethic of Laffit Pincay Jr. and you have Rafael Bejarano. Trainer John Sadler, who like Bejarano led the 2008 Oak Tree meet in victories, is another horseman appreciative of dealing with someone special. www.oaktreeracing.com
“He’s a wonderful worker and a great kid,” said Sadler. “There is a great joy to his riding. He does it with great pleasure. He’s a real kind rider, sort of like if you put together Bill Shoemaker and Julie Krone. He’s a quiet rider. He doesn’t interfere with the horse.” During his third year in the United States in 2004, Bejarano earned $12,212,308 in purses and has steadily improved upon those figures to hit a career-high $16,439,729 last year. If Bejarano leads the Oak Tree meet again this year, he will become the first repeater since Pincay won three consecutive crowns from 2000–02. The jockey is satisfied with his early success in California but remains hungry to keep winning and says education is an ongoing process. “I’ve learned a lot from every jockey,” said Bejarano during a break between races in the jockeys’ room. “I learn a lot every day. They are all good riders here, very professional. From everybody, I’ve learned something. The competition is very good here.” Bejarano said he learned to adapt to the California racing style after moving his tack west from Kentucky in November 2007. “Here the speed holds a lot more, and every day the track changes,” said Bejarano. “Sometimes horses come from behind; sometimes they don’t. Every day after the first two races, you have to adjust.” Not that Bejarano lacked some idea of how to win before becoming a regular. In only his second visit to Santa Anita in April 2006, he wowed the crowd by riding six winners on the card. “My wish here is to try to be the best and try to be better than the day before and learn something new,” said Bejarano. “I never imagined I would win every title when I came here. I just put it in my mind to do my best. I feel blessed.” Bejarano has come a long way since his youth in a non-racing family in Arequipa, Peru. “I grew up in a city of about 100,000,” said Bejarano. “My father is a truck driver. My
A quiet rider who doesn’t interfere with horses, Rafael Bejarano is also devout, praying for everyone’s safety while going to the gate.
“Rafael thinks anything he rides can win, a great trait in a rider.” —Joe Ferrer
mother is a housewife. I also have two married sisters—one a nurse, one a schoolteacher—one niece, two nephews, and a grandma.” When did he aspire to become a jockey? “One day when I was 18, I went to see the races at Hipodromo de Monterrico and fell in love,” said Bejarano. To satisfy his yearning, Bejarano enrolled at the nation’s famed jockey school, which has also produced such United States stars as Edgar Prado, Jorge Chavez, and Alan Garcia. He learned the basics for a year and a half. “They have a great teacher there, Teovaldo
In Pasadena this past summer, Bejarano was renting an apartment and said he was looking to buy a house. His description of his spare time sounded drearily mundane. “I live by myself and have a lot of things to do,” he said. “I wash my car and wash my clothes. I like to play billiards.” The largest percentage of earnings may be spent on telephone bills, since Bejarano makes lengthy daily calls to his family in Peru. Bejarano cooks many of his own meals. “I don’t have a problem with my weight, thank you,” said the wiry 5-foot 2-inch 108-
Vega,” said Bejarano. “He must be in his 70s but is very healthy. “They have about 50 students there now,” said Bejarano, predicting more Peruvian standouts to follow in his footsteps. Bejarano began riding at the Lima track in December 2001, and he won the apprentice title there. He moved to the United States in May 2002, with the help of trainer Dante Zanelli Sr., settling at River Downs in Ohio. Bejarano excelled everywhere he went on a journey that would wind through Kentucky, Florida, and New York before his present location in California.
pounder, who does not have the diet challenges that plague many riders. “Rice, chicken, steak, spaghetti, soup,” listed chef Bejarano among the specialties on his menu. The rider is a devout Christian, regularly crossing himself and pointing heavenward en route to the winner’s circle, and he often uses the word “blessed” in reference to his life. Interestingly, Bejarano said his gratitude to God is not primarily about winning. “If you win a lot, you feel blessed, but the important thing is that you come back safe,” explained Bejarano. “It doesn’t matter if I won, I look up and thank God for bringing me back to the jockeys’ room. I pray for everybody before I go to the gate.” Bejarano suffered his most serious injury this past summer at Del Mar, when a horse he was riding went down in the stretch on opening day. A trailing horse was unable to avoid striking Bejarano, resulting in several fractures in the jockey’s face. OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Before that, Bejarano had very few accidents. He missed several weeks on three occasions: a fractured ankle at Saratoga in 2005, fractured ribs at Saratoga in 2006, and fractured vertebrae at Santa Anita in 2008. Bejarano has expressed his thankfulness to God by making generous donations without fanfare to the Race Track Chaplaincy of America at Santa Anita. Trainer Mike Mitchell saw a connection between the jockey’s faith and his success. “He goes to our church, Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach, on Saturday night after the races,”
he has had, it has never gone to his head.” Ferrer thanked Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel for his persistence in the move to California. “Every fall at Churchill, Frankel used to call and say instead of going to Florida, we should go to California and ride first call for him there,” said Ferrer. “Rafael and I both owned homes in Miami and were among the leaders at Gulfstream, and I turned him down twice. “But the third time, they had put in slots at Gulfstream and the purses didn’t go up. We were riding Ginger Punch and Precious Kitten
“He’s a very well-prepared rider and knows the details of every race.”
said Mitchell. “His faith is pretty strong. He’s a real spiritual man.” Mitchell said Bejarano possesses all the tools of the great ones. “He has great hands and a great sense of pace,” said the conditioner. “He comes out in the morning, works eight horses, and never complains. What’s not to like about him?” Mitchell also praised Bejarano’s agent, Joe Ferrer. “He’s just a great agent,” said Mitchell. “When he gives you a call, he honors it. The combination of the two makes them tough to beat.” Ferrer has been the wind beneath Bejarano’s wings since he began handling his book five years ago. “He’s got a great personality,” said Ferrer of Bejarano. “He’s very positive. He thinks anything he rides can win, a great trait in a rider. He never gives up on a horse. “He’s always upbeat and yet a very humble kid,” added Ferrer. “He treats everyone the same and gets along with everyone. For all the success
for Frankel, so I thought we had nothing to lose. We thought the move might be temporary and we would return to Kentucky in the spring.” Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was among the trainers happy to see Bejarano stay. The jockey won the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap for Hollendorfer aboard Heatseeker in 2008. “He’s a very well-prepared rider and knows the details of every race,” said Hollendorfer. “He watches a lot of films, and he’s real easy to work with. Interaction with his agent is just a real pleasure.” Bejarano, always seeking new goals, did not win any major stakes at Oak Tree last year. A Breeders’ Cup win or two and a couple of other graded stakes at the meet should add some more luster to an already shiny portfolio.
John Sadler and Bejarano led the 2008 Oak Tree trainer and jockey standings. Bejarano rode six winners on one Santa Anita card in 2006. Close to his family, including his mother, Elva, Bejarano calls home every day to Peru, where while growing up he played drums in the school band.
Steve Schuelein is a freelance turf writer, Hollywood Park publicist, and Southern California correspondent for Thoroughbred Times. He is based in Playa Del Rey, Calif. PADDOCK 2009
DEEDS ACROSS Since its beginning in 1969, Oak Tree has developed into a key player in the world racing scene and an essential element of Southern California Thoroughbred sport. Below are some of the countless noteworthy occurrences at Oak Tree meetings through the past 40 years. BY JANE GOLDSTEIN 1969—The inaugural 20-day meeting starts on Oct. 3, featuring the $100,000 Oak Tree, the first weight-for-age stakes for 3-year-olds and up in the West. Clement Hirsch heads the seven-man board of directors; F. E. Kilroe is racing secretary. Czar Alexander wins the Oak Tree in a new Santa Anita turf course record of 2:23 2/5. Bill Shoemaker wins the first stakes, the Autumn Days Handicap, on Tell and captures four of nine stakes during the meeting. 1970—The $50,000 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles is added. The filly June Darling wins the Norfolk as well as the Oak Leaf and Anoakia. Ack Ack wins the Autumn Days Handicap under 128 pounds. The first Exacta at Santa Anita Park is offered, only on the ninth race and in denominations of $5 and $10. 1971—Cougar II wins the Oak Tree Stakes, now an invitational. The Oak Leaf and Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds are increased to $75,000 added. Bill Shoemaker wins with all five of his mounts on closing day. 1972—Cougar II becomes the first back-to-back winner of the Oak Tree Invitational. Ancient Title wins the Sunny Slope Stakes, the first of his
10 stakes triumphs at Santa Anita Park, and sets the Oak Tree record of 1:20 4/5 for seven furlongs under 121 pounds. Farrell Jones leads trainers for the third time in four seasons. 1975—Oak Tree presents a new race, the richest in America to date— the $350,000 National Thoroughbred Championship, an invitational handicap at 1 1/4 miles on the main track. The winner is the mare Dulcia, trained by Charlie Whittingham and ridden by Bill Shoemaker. 1976—The National Thoroughbred Championship is renamed The Champions, and the $350,000 purse makes it the richest invitational Thoroughbred race in the world. Charlie Whittingham and Bill Shoemaker team again, this time with King Pellinore, who also takes the Oak Tree Invitational and Carleton F. Burke Handicap. Joseph W. Harper becomes executive vice-president. 1977—The Yellow Ribbon is inaugurated, offering a purse of $100,000 for fillies and mares at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, by invitation. Double Discount sets a world record of 1:57 2/5 for 1 1/4 miles in the Carleton F. Burke Handicap.
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1989—After the Santa Anita turf course is rebuilt during the summer, Hawkster sets a world record of 2:22 4/5 in the 1 1/2-mile Oak Tree Invitational. Bill Shoemaker scores his 62nd Oak Tree stakes win in the Harold C. Ramser Sr. Handicap on Present Value, and it goes in the record books as the last of his record 322 stakes victories at Santa Anita Park. Raymond M. Rogers becomes executive vice-president. 1990—Recently retired as a jockey and now a trainer, Bill Shoemaker registers his first Oak Tree and Santa Anita victory as a conditioner with Intimate Kid on Oct. 11. The California Cup, a day of rich races strictly for California-breds, is inaugurated, with My Sonny Boy winning the richest, the Cal Cup Classic. 1992—Bel’s Starlet wins the Autumn Days Handicap and California Cup Distaff, joining John Henry and Manta as the only horses to win four Oak Tree stakes. California Cup Day sets its all-time attendance records of 65,252 total, 40,876 on track. Jockey Martin Pedroza notches six wins, in successive races, on Oct. 31.
1980—John Henry wins the first of his three Oak Tree Invitationals en route to earning an Eclipse Award as champion grass horse. The Yellow Ribbon is a romp for Kilijaro, who posts a 3 1/4-length margin under the wire. The Pick Six is offered for the first time at Santa Anita Park. 1982—John Henry takes his third successive Oak Tree Invitational while his rider, Bill Shoemaker, wins his eighth. Landaluce captures the Anoakia and Oak Leaf Stakes, and Roving Boy takes the Norfolk; they are chosen champion 2-year-olds of the year. Oak Tree enters into an accord with Goodwood Race Course in England; each names a stakes race in honor of the other. 1983—Trevor Denman becomes the Oak Tree public address commentator. Zalataia ships in from France to defeat John Henry in the Oak Tree Invitational. 1986—Oak Tree hosts the third running of the Breeders’ Cup before an Oak Tree record on-track crowd of 69,155. Winners include Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret, Smile, Brave Raj, Manila, and Capote, who preps by winning the Norfolk Stakes. 1987—The Goodwood Handicap goes to Ferdinand, who becomes the third horse to win an Oak Tree stakes and then be named Horse of the Year. Ferdinand subsequently wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Hollywood Park. Gary Jones, Hal King, and Charlie Whittingham tie for leading trainer with nine victories each.
’69—Czar Alexander, ’70—June Darling and Clement Hirsch, ’72—Cougar II, ’75—Dulcia, ’76—Hirsch, Bill Shoemaker, and Charlie Whittingham (center three), ’77—Double Discount, ’82—John Henry, ’86—Lady’s Secret.
1993—The 10th Breeders’ Cup is run at Oak Tree. Five of the winners later earn Eclipse Awards, including Kotashaan, named Horse of the Year after his Turf victory. His trainer, Richard Mandella, also saddles the Juvenile Fillies winner Phone Chatter. Attendance for Breeders’ Cup day of 87,674, including satellites, is a Santa Anita Park and California record. Sherwood C. Chillingworth becomes executive vice-president. 1995—Northern Spur wins the Oak Tree Invitational as he prepares for the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Belmont Park, which he also captures en route to an Eclipse Award as champion male turf horse. Jockey Chris McCarron wins a record 11 stakes races at the meeting, including the Yellow Ribbon on Alpride. 1997—Bob Baffert wins 19 races to tie the Oak Tree record set by Mike Mitchell in 1983. He wins six stakes, including the Norfolk and Oak Leaf. Ryafan wins the Yellow Ribbon and later an Eclipse Award for best turf female.
1999—Bob Baffert matches his previous year’s record of 21 wins and is leading trainer for the third consecutive season. No other trainer has taken the championship three years in a row. 2000—Dr. Jack K. Robbins succeeds Clement Hirsch, the only Oak Tree president to date, after Hirsch’s death in March. Three Oak Tree stakes winners follow up with Breeders’ Cup triumphs at Churchill Downs: Tiznow (Goodwood Handicap and Breeders’ Cup Classic), War Chant (Oak Tree Mile and Breeders’ Cup Mile) and Kona Gold (Ancient Title and Breeders’ Cup Sprint). 2002—Azeri is voted Horse of the Meeting, and she follows her win in the Lady’s Secret Handicap with victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Arlington Park and the crown as Horse of the Year. Laffit Pincay Jr. earns his sixth Oak Tree riding title, the most of any jockey. A record $10.6 million average daily handle is established. 2003—Breeders’ Cup returns to Oak Tree. Richard Mandella wins four
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Breeders’ Cup races. They include the Classic with Pleasantly Perfect, a dead heat with Johar in the Turf, and the Juvenile Fillies with Halfbridled. The latter earns an Eclipse Award as best 2-year-old filly and makes Julie Krone the first female jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race. Doug O’Neill sets a meeting training record with 22. 2006—The 20 horses who compete at Oak Tree prior to going to the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs produce one winner—Thor’s Echo in the Sprint. His previous effort was a second in the Ancient Title. Thor’s Echo is voted the Eclipse Award for best sprinter and gives trainer Doug O’Neill his second Breeders’ Cup triumph. O’Neill sends out Lava Man to win the Goodwood Handicap and earn Horse of the Meet honors. 2007—Santa Anita’s new synthetic main track surface debuts at Oak Tree. The Horse of the Meeting is Nashoba’s Key, a 4-year-old filly whose win in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes keeps her record perfect at seven for seven. She finishes fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly
& Mare Turf at Monmouth Park. Tyler Baze wins his first Oak Tree riding title. 2008—As the Breeders’ Cup World Championships return to Oak Tree, a two-day format features five distaff races on Friday, Oct. 24, and the remaining nine races on Saturday, Oct. 25. Undefeated Zenyatta captures the Ladies’ Classic. Raven’s Pass comes from England to win the Classic, upsetting Horse of the Year Curlin; his trainer, John Gosden, was Oak Tree leading trainer in 1986.
’87—Ferdinand, ’89—Hawkster, ’90—Shoemaker (third from left) and Intimate Kid, ’92—Bel’s Starlet, ’93—Sherwood Chillingworth, ’93—Kotashaan, ’95—Chris McCarron and Northern Spur, ’97—Ryafan, ’00—Kona Gold (center), ’02—Azeri, ’03—Julie Krone and Halfbridled, ’06—Lava Man, ’07—Nashoba’s Key, ’08—Zenyatta.
’08 PADDOCK 2009
California Cup Turns 20
Best Pal, one of many California Horses of the Year to have won on California Cup Day, was bred by Betty and John Mabee (top, far right). Other popular winners have been Mr. Chairman (middle, far right) and Megan's Interco (right, Corey Nakatani up).
hether it’s good friends congregating in the infield for a buffet meal beyond imagination or longtime owner-breeders getting their first taste of stakeswinning success in the winner’s circle, California Cup offers unique experiences. For two decades, the Oak Tree Racing Association and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association have hosted a day that resonates with the state’s owners and breeders. California Cup XX this Oct. 3 will highlight another splendid day of racing that stars only horses bred in the state. All year long, California-breds acquit themselves well on the tough Southern California racing circuit, but for one day they race against themselves for a total of $1 million in purses. When Lou Rowan and Don Valpredo first conceived of the California Cup patterned after the popular Maryland Million, they had no idea it would
become as popular a fixture on the racing calendar as it did immediately. Oak Tree quickly signed on as a partner and has provided the venue each year. With only one exception, on-track attendance has topped 20,000 annually since California Cup’s beginning in 1990. In its third year, 40,876 attended, a record for the series. The horses who have won Cal Cup races include California Horses of the Year Moscow Burning, Budroyale, Cavonnier, and Cat’s Cradle, with perhaps the most popular being three-time state Horse of the Year Best Pal. Owner-breeders John and Betty Mabee’s gelding captured the 1993 California Cup Classic. Best Pal is just one of the Cal Cup race winners to have been bred at their Golden Eagle Farm, and the Mabees are the leaders in that category. In Excess has proved the most successful California stallion with seven winners in the series, though current state sensation Unusual Heat OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
ultimately could overtake him. Newly elected national Hall of Famer Bob Baffert leads trainers with eight victories, while Corey Nakatani has a phenomenal 17 wins to head all jockeys. For 2009, City National Bank is sponsoring the $200,000 California Cup Classic. Several other races pay tribute to such important industry figures as John Mabee, Don Valpredo, William T. Pascoe III, and Robert H. Walter. The Juvenile again carries the name of Bob Benoit, the creator and longtime editor of Paddock magazine who passed away in 2008. The activities surrounding Cal Cup will begin on Sept. 30, with a post position draw at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner. The infield party will display the culinary expertise of track chefs, and it annually attracts more than 2,000 guests. Mark Oct. 3 on your calendar now to be part of this momentous 20th running of the greatest day for California-bred racehorses. www.oaktreeracing.com
The CTBA’s Doug Burge and Oak Tree’s Sherwood Chillingworth participate in the post position draw (middle left), one of the many Cal Cup activities, which include the infield party (top left).
TiznowTime The sixth California-bred to be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame, Tiznow remains the
One white foot, inspect him. Two white feet, reject him. Three white feet, sell him to your foes.
only two-time Breedersâ€™ Cup Classic winner. BY BILL CHRISTINE
Four white feet, feed him to the crows. Origin unknown.
ery gingerly, Jay Robbins approached the big stallion with four white socks at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky. Instead of throwing him to the crows, Robbins and Tiznowâ€™s owner, Cecilia Straub-Rubens, had thrown the California-bred colt to the wolves during an astounding 18-month cross-country campaign in 2000-01. The wolves lost. Out of 15 starts, Tiznow won eight times and
was second or third six other times. He became the only horse to win the Breedersâ€™ Cup Classic twice, earned $6.4 million, and this past August was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. While Robbins debated how close he would go to his old meal ticket, his wife, Sandy, stood off to the left with a video camera. Tiznow was in his stall, and there was a webbing and the bot-
Tiznow puts his blaze face in front turning for home at Santa Anita.
“After the Goodwood, we were convinced that Tiznow was mentally ready.”
Photo by Adam Coglianese
—co-owner Mike Cooper
Tiznow defeats Sakhee to win a second Breeders’ Cup Classic (top). England’s Duke of Richmond (above left) congratulates owners Cee StraubRubens and Mike Cooper after the Goodwood.
tom half of a door between him and the outside. But his former trainer was still wary. “Why don’t you walk over there?” Sandy said. Easy for her to say. Robbins, slouching, his hands in his jacket pockets, hesitated some more. Tiznow pawed at the floor of his stall with his left foot. “Don’t do that,” Robbins said. He was still trying to screw up some courage. “Don’t you want to walk over there?” Sandy said. “He’s got a bit of an attitude,” Robbins said sheepishly, as he moved slightly closer, but still removed from harm’s way. “Give him a peppermint,” Sandy said. Robbins had edged to within a couple of feet of the stall door. He reached into his jacket for
the candy, showing it to the horse. “Put your ears up,” he said. There was no reaction. “Put your ears up,” he said again. Tiznow’s ears stayed down, but Robbins unwrapped the peppermint and gave it to him anyway. Then he tried to rub Tiznow on the bridge of the nose, but the horse reacted quickly. His head shot across the webbing, to his left, and Robbins darted out of the way. “He’s a little different than when I had him,” Robbins said much later. “He’s more aloof now.” Tiznow carried his star power with him when he moved from the track to the stud farm. His 2009 stud fee, $75,000, is likely to escalate, even in sour economic times, because many who have already bred mares to him know that they got a bargain. Tiznow’s first crop included Folklore, the 2005 OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Cal-bred Hall of Famers Here’s a rundown of the California-breds before Tiznow who were voted into the Racing Hall of Fame: waps (foaled 1952, elected 1966)— Bred and owned by Rex Ellsworth and trained by Mesh Tenney, Swaps won 19 of 25 starts and earned $848,900. He was ranked 46th in the country as a 2-year-old, but starting at the end of 1954, he won nine straight, including the Santa Anita, Kentucky, and American Derbies. Swaps’ winning streak ended when he was beaten by Nashua, a colt he had defeated in the Kentucky Derby, in a match race at Washington Park near Chicago in August of 1955. Nashua was voted Horse of the Year in 1955, but Swaps won the title in 1956, when he won eight of 10 starts, several of them in record times. Six times at 4, Swaps won while carrying 130 pounds. Jockey Bill Shoemaker said that Swaps and Spectacular Bid were the best horses he ever rode. Native Diver (1959, 1978)—Bred and owned by Louis K. and Ida Shapiro and trained by Buster Millerick, Native Diver raced from 1961 through 1967, winning 37 of 81 starts, finishing second or third 19 times, and earning $1,026,500. Native Diver’s career overlapped with another famous gelding, Kelso, who was Horse of the Year from 1960 through 1964. Veterinarian Jack Robbins, father of Jay Robbins, recommended to the Shapiros that they geld Native Diver early. Native Diver, known as a horse who liked to run on the lead, could carry his speed. One of his legacies was winning the Hollywood Gold Cup three straight times, starting in 1965. Six times The Diver won with 130 pounds or more, including a win under a 133-pound impost in the 1967 San
Francisco Mile Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. After Ralph Neves retired at the end of 1963, Jerry Lambert eventually became Native Diver’s regular rider. Native Diver died of colic on Sept. 13, 1967, nine days after winning the Del Mar Handicap. Cafe Prince (1970, 1985)—Bred by Verne Winchell, Cafe Prince was sold for $17,000 to George Strawbridge Jr. at the Saratoga yearling sale. For Strawbridge and trainer Jonathan Sheppard, the gelded Cafe Prince raced eight seasons, from 1972 through 1980, with time off in 1976. He won Eclipse Awards as best steeplechaser in 1977-78. Cafe Prince started his career on the flat, but after five unsuccessful starts in Delaware and Maryland, he was converted to jumping. He broke his maiden at Saratoga in 1973 while running for a $10,000 claiming price. In 1974, still unaccomplished as a jumper, he returned to the flat. By 1975, however, he had become a fulltime steeplechaser. He won the Colonial Cup, at the time the country’s richest steeplechase race, in 1975 and 1977, and the International Gold Cup by 18 lengths in 1977. In 1978, carrying 163 pounds, he again won the International Gold Cup. Cafe Prince’s overall record was 18 wins, five seconds, and four thirds in 52 starts, with earnings of $228,238. Emperor of Norfolk (1885, 1988)— Bred by Theodore Winters, Emperor of Norfolk was sold to Elias “Lucky” Baldwin for $2,525. Trained by John McClelland and Bob Thomas, Emperor of Norfolk raced two years before going lame, winning 21 of 29
champion 2-year-old filly, and since then, among more than 20 stakes winners, have come Well Armed, winner of this year’s Dubai World Cup and last year’s Goodwood Stakes during the Oak Tree meet; Colonel John, winner of the 2008 Santa Anita Derby and Travers; Da’ Tara, winner of the 2008 Belmont; Bear Now, a champion older female in Canada; Bullsbay, winner of the 2009 Whitney Handicap; Informed, who captured the 2009 San Diego Handicap; and Tough Tiz’s Sis, who won the 2007 Lady’s Secret at Oak Tree. Robbins’ visit to Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt’s WinStar reminded the trainer of the hairy trip Tiznow made to the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in late September 2000. In Robbins’ mind, he had a very good horse, one who turned out to be the best he ever trained. But on paper the colt was still a work in progress. www.oaktreeracing.com
starts and earning $72,400. During his 2year-old season, his wins came in incredible clusters: three in eight days in Chicago, four at Saratoga during August, and two in four days at Jerome Park in New York. Emperor of Norfolk won the Brooklyn and American Derbies at a time when the American Derby was considered the most prestigious race for 3-year-olds. On Dec. 7, 1907, Baldwin opened Santa Anita, his new track in Arcadia, for what would be a 103-day meet. That night, at the age of 22, Emperor of Norfolk died in his stall. Ancient Title (1970, 2008)—Bred by William and Ethel Kirkland, Ancient Title raced for them and, after their deaths, their three daughters. Racing from June of 1972 until August of 1978, Ancient Title won 24 of 57 starts, hit the board in 20 other outings, and earned $1,252,791. He was trained by Keith Stucki, who after winning the Hollywood Gold Cup with the gelding finally took him east in 1975. Under jockey Sandy Hawley, Ancient Title won the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga with high weight of 128 pounds. Remaining in New York, Ancient Title ran third twice against the victorious Wajima at Belmont. In the Governor Stakes he spotted Wajima 15 pounds, and there was a seven-pound spread between the pair in the Marlboro Cup. Ancient Title was unbeaten in seven tries at seven furlongs. Ancient Title swept the Strub Series at Santa Anita in 1974, and he won the San Pasqual Handicap there as an 8-year-old. Ancient Title was euthanized following intestinal surgery in 1981. —Bill Christine
Tiznow, unraced at 2, had taken three starts to break his maiden and had won the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park in his very next start. However, he then finished second twice, to Captain Steve in the Swaps at Hollywood and to Skimming, the horse who had a love affair with Del Mar, in the Pacific Classic. Robbins had been ambitious, running Tiznow in a graded stakes a month after his first win and then sending him out against older horses at Del Mar less than two months after that. The Super Derby, which returned the horse to his own age group, was Tiznow’s first trip outside California. “He was all right until he saw the plane’s running lights,” Robbins said of shipping the colt. “Then he started backing down the sideboards. We couldn’t get him going in the right direction. PADDOCK 2009
“He’s more aloof now.” —trainer Jay Robbins
Trainer Jay Robbins and wife Sandy with Tiznow before the horse retired from racing.
He went off the side, about a two-foot drop. And it was on the same side where he had fractured that tibia as a 2-year-old.” Tiznow won the Super Derby in a stakesrecord time of 1:59 4/5 for the 1 1/4 miles. Commendable, the Belmont winner, finished second, but he had been buried by six lengths. “The Breeders’ Cup wins were great, but the Super Derby was one of two races that were the most visually impressive,” said Mike Cooper, who managed Straub-Rubens’ racing interests and had a minority interest in Tiznow. Next would come the Goodwood, with the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs just around the corner. The Classic was a $4 million race, but to be eligible, Tiznow’s camp would have to pay a $360,000 supplementary fee. “We were undecided about putting up the money,” Cooper said. “But after the Goodwood, we were convinced that Tiznow was mentally ready to run against the top older horses. He ran an incredible race at Santa Anita. “He went head and head with Captain Steve most of the way around. It reminded me of Ferdinand against Alysheba. [Victor] Espinoza was riding Captain Steve hard right from the start. I said to myself, ‘Our horse has got to quit.’ But he never did and won by a half-length.” Straub-Rubens, at age 83, traveled to Louisville, Ky., for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The
day before the race she wasn’t feeling well, but at race time she witnessed Tiznow, brilliantly ridden by Chris McCarron, beat Giant’s Causeway by a neck in one of the most dramatic runnings of the Classic. Forty-eight California-breds had failed in Breeders’ Cup races before Tiznow’s breakthrough win. Three days later, back in California, Cee Straub-Rubens, as she liked to be called, died in a Newport Beach hospital after a battle with cancer. Tiznow’s parents, the sire Cee’s Tizzy and the Seattle Song mare Cee’s Song, were both named after Straub-Rubens. “I think the two minutes it took Tiznow to win at Churchill were the best Cee had felt in a long time,” Mike Cooper said. “It was Tiznow that kept her going.” Polling 72 percent of the vote, Tiznow was voted Horse of the Year, the first Cal-bred to win the honor since Swaps in 1956. As a 4-year-old, Tiznow was campaigned by Cooper and StraubRubens’ children, Pamela Ziebarth and Kevin Cochrane. The colt bled from the lungs while running second to Wooden Phone in the Strub at Santa Anita, won the Santa Anita Handicap, and then after a couple of thirds, in the Woodward at Belmont Park and the Goodwood at Oak Tree, Robbins was ready to take him to New York for another Breeders’ Cup Classic. OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Photo by Adam Coglianese
Once again, the opposition was salty. Sakhee had won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, France’s premier race. Galileo was another formidable horse from Europe. Albert the Great was back for more, and Aptitude had won the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Tiznow, perceived to have fallen off his form, was the fourth betting choice. Coming out of the turn, Albert the Great had the lead on the inside, Tiznow was trying to close the gap, and Sakhee, under Frankie Dettori, seemed to be moving fastest of all while seven wide. It looked as though Tiznow was going to be swallowed up by the other two horses. “I thought we were beat,” Robbins said. But Tiznow cleared Albert the Great and engaged in an all-out battle with Sakhee to the wire. “I looked over and saw the other horse, and the first thing I noticed was his head,” Dettori said. “I knew that if we came to the wire together, that head was going to get my horse beat. It was the size of a dinosaur’s.” Tiznow’s winning margin was a nose, but in the Horse of the Year balloting he finished second to 3-year-old Point Given, 156 votes to 65. “He was a horse who had a tendency to get bored,” McCarron said. “But he had a high degree of intelligence. He loved to be on the track because he knew it would be boring if he went back to the barn.” www.oaktreeracing.com
Chris McCarron (top left) partnered Tiznow in his last 10 starts. Pamela Ziebarth accepts Tiznow’s Hall of Fame plaque from D. G. Van Clief (top right). Straub-Rubens celebrates after a Tiznow victory.
McCarron rode Tiznow for his last 10 starts and was aboard for all but one of his stakes wins. For Tiznow’s 10th birthday, in 2007, WinStar threw a party and baked a cake. Posing for a picture, Mike Cooper was nailed by the stallion, on the back of the arm. It was no love bite. “I guess it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been holding the cake,” Cooper said. Bill Christine, former turf writer for the Los Angeles Times, writes for HorseRaceInsider.com and Post Time USA and has completed work on a book titled From The ’Biscuit to Baze: The Bay Meadows Story. PADDOCK 2009
Photos © Thoroughbred Photography
A L O O K AT T H E P E O P L E , H O R S E S , A N D P R O J E C T S T H AT M A K E O A K T R E E U N I Q U E
Summer Fete won the Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood Racecourse in Chichester, England, and the 10th Duke of Richmond presented champagne to winning jockey Richard Mullen.
Goodwood Has Summer Fete in Oak Tree Stakes
PRINTING DISTAFFERS IN ENGLAND and routing older males in Southern California would seem to have little in common. However, those are the two divisions that benefit from a reciprocal arrangement between the Oak Tree Racing Association and Goodwood Racecourse in Chichester, England. At Oak Tree, older males prepping for the Breeders’ Cup Classic are scheduled to meet in the grade I Goodwood Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 10. At Goodwood, 13 fillies took on each other July 31 in the group III Oak Tree Stakes over seven furlongs. Rainfall softened the turf for Summer Fete, who reveled in the going to win going away over Select. “We’ve always thought quite a bit of her,” said jockey Richard Mullen. “She ran well at Newbury on her comeback earlier this month. She was possibly a little bit fresh that day and she ran too freely, so I was keen to get her switched off today.” Bryan Smart trains Summer Fete for owner-breeder Sheikh Rashid Bin Mohammed. She is a gray 3-year-old daughter of Pivotal out of Tamarillo and had won three of her five starts prior to the Oak Tree.
The Oak Tree Racing Association inaugurated the Goodwood Stakes in 1982. The list of Goodwood winners is impressive with the likes of Ferdinand, Bertrando, Silver Charm, Tiznow, and Well Armed. Lord At War (1984-85) and Pleasantly Perfect (2002-03) are the only horses to have captured the Goodwood twice. Goodwood’s Oak Tree Stakes began in 1980 as the New Stand Stakes and was renamed the Royal Wedding Day Stakes the following year because it coincided with the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana. From 1982, it has been called the Oak Tree Stakes. The 2008 winner, Visit, came to Oak Tree for the Breeders’ Cup, finishing fourth in the Filly & Mare Turf. She has since placed in major Southern California stakes. “The close association between Oak Tree and Goodwood goes back for 30 years,” said the 10th Duke of Richmond, Chairman of the Goodwood Group of Companies. “Goodwood has gained much benefit from this, and I hope Oak Tree has done so as well. As Clement Hirsch once said, ‘What is Oak Tree if it is not good wood!’” I OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Farewell To the Footman
HE BREEZEWAY OUTSIDE OF the Oak Tree executive offices will be lonelier this season without the cheerful banter of Eddie Logan. Santa Anita’s self-proclaimed footman died Jan. 31 at age 98. He and his shoeshine stand, which had a long pride of place between the Oak Tree and racing office doorways, will not be there to greet horsemen and fans as they arrive at the west entrance. Logan worked at Santa Anita when the track first opened its doors Dec. 25, 1934, until he suffered a stroke on Jan. 3. His time at the track encompassed all of Oak Tree’s 40 years. Logan had become an institution, his stories delighting both the customers who visited his shoeshine stand and the people Trainer Noble Threewitt and footman Eddie Logan—two longtime friends whose history with Santa Anita dates back to opening who bought programs from him. day in 1934—visit on Logan’s shoeshine stand. “He hardly missed a day except for doctor appointments—a great work ethic example for all of us,” said Sherwood C. Chillingworth, Oak Tree’s although he lived a very long and healthy life, we just wish we could Executive Vice-President. “Rather than sit on Eddie’s stand—he always have had a lot more time with him.” gave me instructions on how this feat should be accomplished—I Hall of Fame trainer and Oak Tree Director Richard Mandella was would bring him a bag with two or three pair so he could ‘get the one of Logan’s most loyal customers. leather together’ when business was slow. No volume discount!” “Over the years, Eddie became a great friend,” Mandella said. “Our Logan’s stories included reminiscences of his time as a boxer and friendship was partly due to the admiration I had for him. To be playing baseball. He annually presented the trophy for the Eddie operating his shoeshine stand as he did for all these years was Logan Stakes at Santa Anita, most recently last Dec. 27 just before he remarkable.” became ill. In place of Logan’s shoeshine stand, Santa Anita erected a plaque in “Eddie loved racing and the people in it,” said Santa Anita Presihis honor. It reads in part: “May he rest in peace and always be dent Ron Charles. “He was indeed a window to our past, and remembered as the man who got it together if we had the leather.” I
Pre-employment Testing Free Through Oak Tree Support
RAINERS WHO WANT TO test job applicants as part of their efforts to ensure a drug-free and alcohol-free work environment have for years been able to do so at no cost through a program funded by the Oak Tree Racing Association. Few horsemen were taking advantage of the opportunity, however. As of July 1, the California Horsemen’s Safety Alliance incorporated preemployment drug testing into its guidelines. “We are trying to educate trainers about this program in order to reduce workplace accidents,” said Sonia Pishehvar, Administrator of the CHSA. The CHSA, which was formed in December 2002, consists of about 430 trainers in California. Through the alliance’s efforts, workplace accidents on the backstretch have declined considerably, leading not only to a safer environment for employees but also a significant reduction in the cost of workers’ compensation insurance for member employers. www.oaktreeracing.com
If a trainer wants applicants to submit to a pre-employment drug test, the applicant goes to the Winners Foundation to have the proper form filled out. The California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation medical clinic conducts the test, which is sealed and sent back with the applicant to the trainer. “It’s totally free to the trainers,” said Bob Fletcher, Executive Director of the Winners Foundation, an organization that helps anyone in the racing industry who needs a hand in battling substance abuse. Though very few trainers were using the pre-employment testing program, Fletcher noted that those who do rarely, if ever, have drug problems with their employees. Pishehvar hopes that the new CHSA guidelines will encourage more trainers to use the pre-employment testing program. “We are asking our members to promote an alcohol-free and drugfree work environment,” she said. I PADDOCK 2009
Backstretch Recreation Facility Gives Employees a Leg Up
OUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S BACKSTRETCH EMPLOYEES work hard, but they have ample opportunity to play as well due to the Oak Tree Recreation Facility. Located in the Santa Anita stable area, the facility offers everything from a state-of-the-art workout room to areas for card games, large-screen TVs, video games, pool, Ping-Pong, and Foosball. Through grants from the Oak Tree Foundation, Los Angeles Turf Club, and California Thoroughbred Trainers, employees can take advantage of many free programs available at the recreation hall. That includes the Oak Tree Learning Center, complete with computers, one-on-one computer training, and a plethora of books and magazines. English classes, Bible studies, and other meetings are also held in the learning center. In addition to what’s available in the rec hall, employees throughout the year participate in softball and soccer leagues as well as family outings to Southern California theme parks and professional sports games. During the 2008 Breeders’ Cup, a backstretch fiesta was held that welcomed not only Southern California employees but also the barn help from stables that shipped in from throughout the U.S. and Europe. Trainers Jenine Sahadi and Jim Cassidy, jockeys David Flores and Danny Sorenson, and Hall of Fame former rider Eddie Delahoussaye participated to make everyone feel welcome. The Oak Tree Recreation Facility and its staff continually work to provide more opportunities every year. Plans for 2009 included expansion of the computer program, a fall flag football tournament, and even more family excursions. “Knowing how hard the backstretch help work and the many hours they put in, it’s a comfort to know they have a place to kick back and relax,” said Richard Mandella, a Hall of Fame trainer and an Oak Tree Director. I The workout room at the Oak Tree Recreation Facility offers state-of-theart equipment.
Bob Benoit the horse loves the racing game as much as did his namesake.
“Bob” the Horse a Winner, Just Like his Namesake
OB BENOIT, ONE OF the most popular figures in racing nationwide but particularly in Southern California, had a passion for the sport hard to equal. Bob loved the horses, the competition, the people, and, yes, the opportunity to prove or disprove his opinion by putting a few dollars through the betting windows. The creator of this magazine, he was its editor until his death in August 2008. His company, Benoit and Associates, is the official track photographer on the Southern California circuit. One day in 2007, he was in the photo office when Bob Feld and Chris Closson, two of the principals in the Bongo Racing Stable, came to pick up win photos. Bongo forms owner syndicates for horses. They told Benoit they had a promising 2-year-old and asked, would he like to buy 10 percent? Bob agreed. Only later did he learn that they would name the Kentucky-bred “Bob Benoit.” Bob saw his namesake, trained by Dave Hofmans, run several times, but not a winning race. Bob Benoit broke his maiden in April 2009, ran third in his next two efforts, then won back-to-back at Hollywood Park, where Benoit formerly was general manager and publicity director. The gelding is Bob’s kind of horse. He was 17-1 in his first win and 11-1 in both his second and third victories. It’s a sure bet that Bob would have gone home with some extra pocket change. I
Robbins Fellowship at Davis Backs Specialized Training
HE DR. JACK K. ROBBINS Fellowship in Equine Studies at the U. C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine was established to provide staff and faculty veterinarians with short-term specialized training in areas of equine medicine. Dr. Robbins, one of the most respected veterinarians in Thoroughbred racing, is President of Oak Tree Racing Association.
Among the recent recipients was Dr. Sarah Puchalski, whose work is in computed axial tomography (CAT or CT scans) for the field of equine imaging. Also, Dr. Martin Vidal is training in research of stem cell therapy for tendon repair in horses. Both are assistant professors in the Department of Surgical and Radiological Sciences. I OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
BY JANE GOLDSTEIN
consistently for tracks taking part. What we’re lacking is consistency in measuring moisture or mix. We can’t compare one track with another. “We need to learn how to maintain them, improving consistency. This is especially important for synthetic tracks.” The studies already are producing valuable information. “The most important results are changes in waxes and polymers in synthetic tracks, showing differences in waxes and changes in waxes,” Peterson said. “We look at characteristics of waxes. We will be able to fine tune the wax, bring it back to where we want it. It’s
N A SPORT WITH no central governing and a history of factions going their separate ways, and in a climate of economic downturn, odds were against consensus about almost anything in Thoroughbred racing in recent months. However, consensus was accomplished in an area that will benefit horses, riders, and tracks within racing and, eventually, may permit racing to be the source for pioneering expert advice for safety in other sports. The Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory got up and running quickly, thanks to start-up funding from Oak Tree Racing Association and four other organizations—The Jockey Club, New York Racing Association, National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Charities and Churchill Downs Inc. Additional groups have committed financing for ongoing work. The laboratory will provide science-based testing of synthetic and dirt track surfaces to help track superintendents maintain surfaces for the well-being of horses and riders. “Everybody believes in it,” said Dan Fick, Executive Vice-President of The Jockey Club, who coordinated the funding. “Just about everyone we approached said, ‘Sure.’ And others came to us out of the blue, asking to take part, like CARF [California Authority of Racing Fairs]. The industry is so focused on safety.” Coordinators of the lab, which is in Orono, Dr. Mick Peterson, a mechanical engineer professor at the University of Maine and one of the Racing Surfaces Maine, are Dr. Mick Peterson, Professor of Testing Laboratory’s coordinators, tests the main track at Churchill Downs. mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, and Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, Professor of already affecting maintenance. surgery and Director of the Orthopaedic Research Center at the Col“I give the track superintendents the information, but they make lege of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado decisions. The information helps them explain to management what State University. Peterson and McIlwraith have collaborated for sevthey’re doing.” eral years on studying racetrack surfaces, in part by using a biomeArthur pointed out that tests can show variation in the surface at chanical hoof tester that Peterson developed. different points in the same track. “I was making measurements at tracks and getting more and more “The backstretch, turns, and homestretch may be different,” he questions—like what’s the next step?” Peterson recalled. “This was the said. “We want to find what works best in what location, what’s a safe impetus for establishing the lab.” racetrack and what isn’t. Fact vs. fiction. A prime example of the need for centralized, consistent testing was “The real story is trying to put science into track maintenance, to Santa Anita’s problems with the first synthetic surface it installed. have the same measurements nationally.” “There was the frustration at Santa Anita with the Cushion Track,” So far the work is concentrated on measurements and analysis of Peterson said. track surfaces. How to make them as safe as possible for horse and Samples of the problematic synthetic surface were sent to a numrider is another thing. ber of labs for analysis. “This will take patience,” Peterson said. “We have to have a central“Different labs got different results. There had to be a better way. I ized database that includes catastrophic injury data to correlate. talked to Dan Fick, and he said to put together a proposal. Dan is the “Once we have this, racing could rapidly be ahead of human implementer. He has critical mass behind him—trainers, track mansports. The NFL hasn’t done this. Racing could be in a position to agement, owners.” advise human sports, to be looked to as a resource by other sports.” Rick Arthur, who is an Oak Tree Vice-President and Director as well Enhancing safety factors for horses and riders is paramount, as a prominent Southern California veterinarian and the Equine Medbut improving racing’s image in the whole sports world couldn’t ical Director of the California Horse Racing Board, put it this way: “The hurt, either. I purpose is to have a lab supported by the industry doing the same tests www.oaktreeracing.com
Photo courtesy of Dr. Mick Peterson
Racetrack Surface Study Puts Safety First
Photo by Ron Mesaros
Dr. Jack Robbins (right) receives his plaque for the California Hall of Fame from fellow Oak Tree Director John Barr.
Oak Tree’s Robbins Elected to California Hall of Fame
R. JACK ROBBINS, PRESIDENT of the Oak Tree Racing Association and veterinarian to such horses as national champion John Henry, Kentucky Derby winner Majestic Prince, and California-bred millionaires Native Diver and Ancient Title, was one of six inductees to the California Hall of Fame in 2009. The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association founded the state Hall of Fame in 1987. Breeder and track executive Kjell Qvale and the late Cecilia de Mille Harper, a former CTBA president, were inducted with Robbins at the CTBA’s annual meeting and awards dinner in February. The CTBA also elected three new equine members in the class of ’09—longtime leading California stallion Gummo, sire of Ancient Title; Iron Reward, dam of Swaps; and the speedy Melair, champion California-bred 3-year-old filly and sprinter of 1986. A founding director of Oak Tree, Robbins began working as a
racetrack veterinarian in 1945 and is a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. He was also the chief veterinarian for Edwin Janss’ Conejo Ranch and Frank Bishop’s Laguna Seca Ranch, two of California’s top Thoroughbred breeding facilities. Robbins bought Gummo from trainer Eddie Neloy for Bishop and Bill Harder, which brought the stallion to California. Robbins gelded Native Diver and Ancient Title, operations that allowed both horses to race to their potential. Robbins joked about the procedures when the crowd at the awards dinner gave him a standing ovation. “I said I don’t know anybody who has been honored for cutting two Cal-bred horses who went on to be millionaires,” Dr. Robbins recalled of the evening. “But it was very thrilling to be elected to the Hall of Fame, and I was honored.” I
Oak Tree is Gold Sponsor for Popular Taste of Arcadia
NE OF THE COMMUNITY events in the period preceding the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is Taste of Arcadia, offering dining and dancing at the Los Angeles County Arboretum on Monday, Sept. 21. Participating for a second consecutive year, Oak Tree Racing Association is a gold sponsor, as are Santa Anita Park and the Breeders’ Cup organization. Presented by the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, Taste of Arca-
dia allows attendees to sample the fare of more than 30 regional restaurants and wineries in a unique outdoor setting at the Arboretum, which is directly across the street from Santa Anita. Among those taking part will be FrontRunner and Sirona’s, two of Santa Anita’s dining facilities. Benefiting from ticket sales are the Arboretum Foundation and the Boy Scouts of America (Lucky Baldwin District). Information is available at www.tasteofarcadia.com. I OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Standard Colored Saddlecloths A Boon to Breeders’ Cup Bettors
Collector’s Stein, Stadium Blanket Celebrate Breeders’ Cup Events
ORSEPLAYERS ARE GETTING WHAT many have asked for as the Breeders’ Cup will adopt the standard colored saddlecloth system for the 2009 World Championships races at Oak Tree on Nov. 6-7. Instead of Breeders’ Cup purple adorning each horse under the saddle, the color will correspond to the program number, the system commonly used in North American Thoroughbred racing, including Oak Tree. The Breeders’ Cup made its decision to switch following discussions with its Fan Advisory Council and with horseplayers across the U.S. and Canada. “The colored saddle towel system will allow fans at Santa Anita Park and at simulcast locations around the globe to more easily follow the horses in the Breeders’ Cup races,” said Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Greg Avioli. “We appreciate the input from so many passionate horseplayers on this topic.” Breeders’ Cup races are restricted to 14 horses, except for the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Juvenile Turf, and Dirt Mile, which are limited to 12. Because a maximum of two also-eligible horses will be allowed at entry time, 16 colored saddle towels will be available. The saddle towels will also recognize sponsors that have title designation of specific races. I The Breeders’ Cup for 2009 will switch to standard saddlecloth colors, making it easier for fans to follow the horses both live and on TV.
O CELEBRATE THE UNPRECEDENTED backto-back hosting of the Breeders’ Cup, Oak Tree will feature Breeders’ Cup events on its most popular premium, the annual collector’s stein, as well as a new item, a stadium blanket. The amazing Zenyatta graces the 26th stein, as does Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass and several other winners of 2008 Breeders’ Cup championship events. The stein also sports the silks of Breeders’ Cup founder John R. Gaines, while the silks of the 2008 race winners circle the bottom. Fans attending opening day of Oak Tree’s meeting, Sept. 30, will receive the stein free with a paid admission. Be sure to return on Saturday, Oct. 10, not only for a card full of major stakes, but also for the stadium blanket premium. Sponsored by K-EARTH 101 radio station, the goldish-green blanket features Zenyatta, Well Armed, Hyperbaric, and Wait a While, each the winner of a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race at Oak Tree in 2008. Oak Tree on Oct. 10 will offer four of its signature stakes, which are now part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program—the $350,000 Goodwood Stakes, $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes, $300,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes, and $150,000 Oak Tree Mile. Those attending California Cup XX on Saturday, Oct. 3, will receive a colorful Cal Cup T-shirt. All Thoroughbreds Club members can take advantage of a binocular promotion on Saturday, Oct. 24, a day that will also feature an infield carnival. If you’re not a Thoroughbreds Club member, you can sign up for free at the Thoroughbreds Center located in the east end of the grandstand. And with Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, you won’t want to miss the spooky Halloween infield celebration that afternoon. Enjoy Halloween at the races this year. I
Horsemen Helping Horsemen and the Local Community
UNDING FREE FLU SHOTS for track and stable employees through the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation medical services is one example of how the Oak Tree Racing Association and its Charitable Foundation aid the racetrack industry. The two organizations benefit many local community organizations as well. More than $600,000 went to good causes during fiscal year 200708, nearly 90% to the equine industry. Since its founding in 1969, Oak Tree has contributed more than $26 million. The Winners Foundation, several Race Track Chaplaincy divisions,
and several groups providing homes for retired Thoroughbreds were among those within the industry receiving financial support from Oak Tree. Many backstretch programs also benefit from Oak Tree’s aid, and last year that included funding for the Grooms Elite Program offered through the Edwin Gregson Foundation. Community recipients included the Arcadia Police Officers Association, Methodist Hospital Foundation, Arcadia Historical Society, and the Arcadia chapter of the American Red Cross. Nearby Sierra Madre and Pasadena community organizations also received contributions. I PADDOCK 2009
PRESORTED STD U.S. POSTAGE
PAID Los Angeles, CA Permit No. 33 Oak Tree Racing Association Santa Anita Park Arcadia, California 91007-3439
PADDOCK is published annually by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA), with offices at 201 Colorado Place, Arcadia, CA 91...