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C O N T E N T S 4
BUILDING UPON STRONG ROOTS
by Bill Christine Now in its 44th year, the charitable Oak Tree Racing Association strives for a future to parallel its glorious past.
by Steve Schuelein For 85-year-old jockey agent Ivan Puhich, it’s been a wild, six-month ride with the Kentucky Derby-winning rider Mario Gutierrez.
15 A HORSE INDUSTRY UNITED
by Jack Shinar Residents of California may soon be able to not only bet on horse racing but also wager on athletic events at sports books and play poker online.
18 THE GOOD LIFE
by Gene Williams In Dr. Rick Arthur’s case, his 30-plus years as an equine veterinarian have placed him in the company of many top horses and leading trainers.
22 DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
by Hank Wesch New partnership with Oak Tree Racing Association among innovations as Del Mar Thoroughbred Club celebrates 75th anniversary.
28 CARRYING THE TORCH
by Jay Hovdey Samantha Siegel’s lifelong passion for racing burns brightly as she expands the legacy of her family’s Jay Em Ess Stable.
32 THE WILD WEST
by Lisa Groothedde Dominant distaffers, disqualifications and an unprecedented dead-heat have distinguished eight action-packed editions of Breeders’ Cup in California.
28 OAK TR E E R ACIN G AS S OCIATION
Officers and Directors
38 AHEAD OF THE CURVE
Dr. Jack K. Robbins Chairman John H. Barr President Sherwood C. Chillingworth Vice President Dr. Rick Arthur Vice President Thomas R. Capehart Vice President Richard Mandella Vice President Warren B. Williamson Vice President Robert W. Zamarripa, Sr. Vice President Oak Tree Racing Association 285 W. Huntington Drive Arcadia, California 91007 (626) 574-6345
by Steve Andersen Trainer Bill Spawr’s early morning routine has yielded tremendous success and lasting relationships.
43 A WINNING HAND
by Emily Shields Annual poker tournament one of unique fundraising concepts initiated by CARMA to assist retired racehorses.
45 A PROMISING INVESTMENT
by Marcie Heacox Created in 2000, the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation has distributed grants from its scholarship fund to almost 300 students.
47 PROJECTS & PEOPLE
by Rudi Groothedde A look at the people, horses, and projects that make the Oak Tree Racing Association unique.
Publisher California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA) Editor Rudi Groothedde Art Director John Melanson Production Charlene Favata-Markel Editorial Contributions Steve Andersen Bill Christine Lisa Groothedde Rudi Groothedde Marcie Heacox Jay Hovdey Steve Schuelein Emily Shields Jack Shinar Hank Wesch Gene Williams Photography Chris Aplin Sylvia Bachmann Katey Barrett Benoit Photo Boardman Photography Adam Coglianese ChurchillDowns/Reed Palmer Photography Four Footed Fotos Cecelia Gustavsson Trevor Jones Barbara Livingston Jim McCue Ron Mesaros Bill Mochon Bill Vassar Vic Stein & Associates Special Thanks Logan Bailey Cantor Gaming Mark Guth Editorial Consultant Sherwood C. Chillingworth
PADDOCK is published annually by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA), with offices at 201 Colorado Place, Arcadia, CA 91007, telephone (626) 445-7800. Copyright ©2012 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—The majestic San Gabriel Mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to the exciting horse racing at Santa Anita Park, “The Great Race Place,” during its winter/ spring and autumn meets.. ©Katey Barrett Photography. PADDOCK 2012
Building U Upon
Now in its 44th year, the charitable Oak Tree Racing Association strives for a future to parallel its glorious past
BY BILL CHRISTINE
Gracing the cover of the media guide for the Oak Tree Racing Association’s last meet at Santa Anita Park was Zenyatta, winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) on November 7, 2009.
ne of the ironies of the Oak Tree Racing Association’s fourdecade run at Santa Anita Park is that arguably the best race run there was also one of the last. “That was the most noise I ever heard at a racetrack,” said Sherwood Chillingworth, who is shepherding Oak Tree in its 44th year. Chillingworth, who has been the executive vice president of Oak Tree since 1993, was recalling the day in November 2009 when Zenyatta, winning her 14th race without a loss, beat the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). The crowd of 58,845, many of them carrying signs that said “Girl Power” or some such, went ballistic. Seismographs reported a four-point reading in the area of the Santa Anita grandstand. As Zenyatta was led in, the deep ring of
spectators back of the winner’s circle looked like Times Square on a New Year’s Eve. John Shirreffs, Zenyatta’s trainer, usually is not mistaken for the life of the party, but this time he couldn’t help himself. He took his blue baseball cap and sailed it into that humanity. “As great as that race was, let’s not forget all the other great races we had on that day and the day before,” said Chillingworth, alluding to Goldikova (Ire) repeating in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), Dancing in Silks and California Flag giving California-breds a pair of wins in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, respectively, and Life Is Sweet, another Shirreffs-trained filly, scoring a popular win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1). It was a good two days in the counting house as well, which was much-needed after Oak Tree had been painted with red ink following the 2008 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Stung that year by a guarantee to the Breeders’ Cup, Oak Tree recovered in 2009, thanks to the draw of Zenyatta, Goldikova and the others. Chillingworth isn’t able to talk about the 2009 Breeders’ Cup without a ration of melancholia seeping in. In 2010, after 41 years of Oak Tree meets in Arcadia, Frank Stronach’s cash-strapped Santa Anita usurped the fall dates and pulled the rug on Oak Tree’s lease. Oak Tree was able to run one stop-gap meet at Hollywood Park, but then in 2011 and 2012, there have been no meets at all. Oak Tree as a racing entity hasn’t turned turtle, however; it and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club have some ideas percolating, so in the words of many an out-of-work actor, the Chillingworth outfit is between engagements. “Bury My Heart at Oak Tree,” read the 2011 headline in Thoroughbred Times, where Mark Simon wrote: “(Stronach) would not allow Oak Tree to conduct another meeting (at Santa Anita), regardless of how much benefit it provides the industry…It is a disappointing, discouraging turn of events for anyone who cares for the sport and its history.” OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
As Clement Hirsch, one of its founders, had intended, Oak Tree has paid its way and taken the high road throughout. Total giving? Chillingworth said that the cumulative figure has exceeded $30 million. The myriad of recipients include the University of Califor-
Hirsch, ill with cancer, was 85 when he died at his Newport Beach home in 2000. He was a former dog food salesman who went door to door during the Depression, before launching a company that became a national producer of pet foods. In 1968, the year before Oak Tree ran its first meet, it was Hirsch who labeled the enterprise, “Horsemen helping horsemen.” Hirsch, the late Lou Rowan and a few of the other founders ponied up $1,000 apiece to get the kitty started. Asked what that bought, Hirsch cracked, “It paid for the stationery.” Actually, Hirsch’s group risked hundreds of thousands of dollars in getting Oak Tree off the drawing board. Bob Strub, the head of Santa Anita, and Fred Ryan, his general manager, were a hard sell. They sat down several times at the California Club with Hirsch, Rowan and Jack Robbins, the renowned veterinarian who was part of Hirsch’s Oak Tree Team from the get-go, and were not convinced. “When you think about it now,” Robbins said, “it was surprising that they didn’t come along from the very beginning. They had this huge plant, just sitting there. Nothing was going on at Santa Anita from mid-April until Christmas. But they were worried about the impact. They thought that our meet might negatively impact theirs.” The racing board was also unenthusiastic. Del Mar had run an extra meet in 1967, and there were reports that the losses reached $1 million. Another consideration for the board was the overlap that Oak Tree might create with the Western Harness Racing Association at Hollywood Park.
Strong Roots nia at Davis, for equine research, the Winners Foundation, a support group for racetrackers who fall into substance abuse, and the California Thoroughbred Horseman’s Foundation, for backstretch workers who rely on this group for their health care needs. In dribs and drabs, other Oak Tree largesse surfaces. Before Stronach/Magna, Meditrust, a company better known for nursing homes, owned Santa Anita briefly, and soon encountered payroll problems. Oak Tree twice came to the rescue. One day, California Horse Racing Board member David Israel said, “There are lots of things that need fixing in California racing, but Oak Tree isn’t one of them.” “I always thought we were the good guys,” Chillingworth said when the Santa Anita residency ended. “There’s something wrong with the system.”
Louis R. Rowan (left) and Clement L. Hirsch (right) were joined by J. T. Jones, William T. Pascoe III, Hal C. Ramser, B. J. Ridder, and Dr. Jack K. Robbins as the original officers and directors of the Oak Tree Racing Association in 1969.
On October 7, 1969, opening day of the first Oak Tree Racing Association meet at Santa Anita Park, Tell defeated stablemate Pinjara in the inaugural stakes race, the Autumn Days Stakes. 6
Doggedly (in Hirsch’s case, an apt word), Oak Tree came back to the racing board a second time, with a revised business plan, and with Strub’s approval it was granted 20 days of racing for October 1969. The meet was scheduled to open on a Friday, but the first race wasn’t run until the following Tuesday, October 7, because of a dispute with the union that represented the pari-mutuel clerks. As the talks dragged on, there was
sentiment to cancel the meet, but Bob Fluor, chairman of the CHRB, didn’t want to see Hirsch’s brainchild scuttled. On opening day, a crowd of 16,733 bet $1.4 million. Jimmy Durante, a friend of Hirsch’s, made the winner’s circle presentation with another star, Cliff Robertson, after Tell, ridden by Bill Shoemaker and trained by Charlie Whittingham for Libby Keck, won the Autumn Days Stakes. For the 20-day meet, Oak Tree’s crowds averaged a respectable 14,622. The annual dates were gradually extended to as many as 32, and never fewer than 26. “The Breeders’ Cup (hosted by Oak Tree in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008 and 2009) was icing on the cake,” Hirsch said a couple of years before he died. “Thanks to a wonderful idea (by Lou Rowan and Don Valpredo), we’ve got the Cal Cup every year (since 1990) for our state-breds. We can be proud of the fact that we’ve helped the industry in so many ways…We even provided a several horse ambulances, one for Northern California and two for the South. The same (not-for-profit) concept has been working at Del Mar. You see some of the old established tracks around the country going by the wayside. Maybe the answer in some of those places, just to keep the game going, is to do what we did with Oak Tree.” Stability has helped Oak Tree endure. While Santa Anita has undergone wholesale changes in the executive suite in the last 15 years, the list of front-office leaders for Oak Tree hardly fills a page. Hirsch’s watch lasted until he died. Robbins, a charter member of the board, took over until 2011, when at age 90, he passed the baton to John Barr, a Thoroughbred breeder and owner in California for more than 40 years. “When John joined the Oak Tree Board in 1997, it was obvious from the first meeting that he was a valued addition,” said Chillingworth At Oak Tree, the nutsand-bolts operator of the association is the executive vice president. Joe Harper, before he moved on to Del Mar, is considered the first, but Harper told an interviewer, Hank Wesch, that Frank Tours actually preceded him and then, after a couple of years, recommended Harper OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
for the job. When Harper joined Del Mar in 1978, Oak Tree tapped Herman Smith, who was succeeded by Ray Rogers, the veteran Santa Anita executive, until the hiring of Chillingworth, who had been on the board since 1988. “Jack Robbins had a lot to do with sponsoring me for the Oak Tree board,” Chillingworth said. “I was not well-known at that time, and, when Jack brought my name up with Clement Hirsch, he asked Jack, ‘Who is this guy?’ Apparently, Jack was a good salesman as I am still around going into my 21st year. “The time was right for me to try something else,” Chillingworth explained. “I was a real estate developer, but that business was drying up, and I had to pull in my company. They hired me for two years, and I’ve stayed for over 20. I’m like ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner.’” In partnership, Chillingworth owned Yashgan, the English-bred who won the 1985 Oak Tree Invitational (G1), one of Oak Tree’s signature races. The race was renamed the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship in 2000. The ageless John Henry won the stakes three straight years, once during the first of his two Eclipse Horse of the Year campaigns in 1981. From the beginning, leading horsemen and horses flocked to Oak Tree. At the first abbreviated meet in 1969, Laffit Pincay Jr., not long removed from his native Panama, and Rudy Rosales, who won the first three races on opening day, tied for the riding title with 26 wins apiece. Trainer Farrell Jones saddled 16 winners. After that, Pincay won six more Oak Tree titles, the last coming at age 55, 33 years after he tied with Rosales. He won a record 671 races at Oak Tree, 174 more than the next jockey on the list. Trainer Charlie Whittingham, who won 68 stakes races at Oak Tree, was a presence in most of the major stakes, and it seemed that when John Henry wasn’t winning what became the Hirsch Turf Championship, Whittingham was. Whittingham won nine of the first 18 runnings, mostly with short-priced horses, but tossed in an occasional 18-1 surprise like Balzac (1979) when nobody was looking. The only other Oak Tree trainer to win the same stakes race nine times has been Wayne Lukas, who captured the Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies in clusters—two straight, four in a row and then three consecutive, between 1994 and 1996. Bob Baffert has seven Oak Leaf wins, plus five in the Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-old males. It was the California Cup that gave Baffert the final shove as he permanently switched from Quarter Horses to Thoroughbreds. In 1991, Baffert was going back and forth between the www.oaktreeracing.com
breeds. On Cal Cup day at Oak Tree, he sent out three winners, including Charmonnier for a 28-1 upset of Best Pal. The next morning, Baffert went to his barn at Los Alamitos, made a few phone calls to owners, and transferred his 20 Quarter Horses to other trainers. The Cal Cup, under the auspices of Oak Tree, was a Santa Anita fixture until it was run during the Oak Tree meet at Hollywood Park in 2010. Dozens of horses have used Oak Tree races as preps for Breeders’ Cup wins, the most noteworthy being the Goodwood Stakes. The Goodwood, named after the picturesque track in England which reciprocates by running an Oak Tree Stakes every summer, has directly sent Ferdinand, Alphabet Soup, Tiznow (twice) and Pleasantly Perfect to wins
in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Zenyatta’s win in the 2009 Classic was preceded by her second straight win in Oak Tree’s Lady’s Secret Stakes (G1). This year, in a sweeping renaming of longstanding Oak Tree stakes, Santa Anita changed the Goodwood to the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) and the Lady’s Secret to the Zenyatta Stakes (G1), while Oak Tree was able to preserve its Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2) by running the 2012 edition at Del Mar. When Richard Mandella saddled two Breeders’ Cup winners during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita in 1993, and four more in a 2003 encore, all six horses had used Oak Tree PADDOCK 2012
The current directors of the Oak Tree Racing Association (left to right): John H. Barr, Warren B. Williamson, Thomas R. Capehart, Dr. Jack K. Robbins, Richard Mandella, Dr. Rick Arthur, Sherwood C. Chillingworth and Robert W. Zamarripa, Sr.
races for preps. The acme was Pleasantly Perfect, who won the 2003 Classic at 14-1 in 99-degree heat. Just a few weeks before, Pleasantly Perfect had won the Goodwood (G2) for the second straight year. It was on October 31, 1992, when a number of California-based jockeys left Oak Tree to ride in the Breedersâ€™ Cup at Gulfstream Park; Eddie Delahoussaye, Pat Valenzuela and Chris McCarron won two races apiece there. 8
Capitalizing, Martin Pedroza pulled off a unique six-win day on the Oak Tree card at Santa Anita. Because of the time difference, Oak Tree needed to accommodate simulcast customers with what amounted to a morning-afternoon doubleheader of live racing. Pedroza won with all three of his mounts in the morning, then went home to nearby Duarte and watched the seven Breedersâ€™ Cup races on television. Upon his return to the track, he won with his next three mounts, OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
“Jack Robbins had a lot to do with sponsoring me for the Oak Tree board. I was not well-known at that time, and, when Jack brought my name up with Clement Hirsch, he asked Jack, ‘Who is this guy?’ They hired me for two years, and I've stayed for over 20. I'm like 'The Man Who Came to Dinner.'" –Sherwood C. Chillingworth
the last aboard Regal Groom in the Morvich Handicap. Before Pedroza, three jockeys—Steve Valdez in 1973, Darrel McHargue in 1979 and Valenzuela in 1988—had six-win days during Oak Tree. Valdez was a 17-year-old apprentice on his way to 272 wins and an Eclipse Award. “I thought I was Eddie Arcaro,” he once told interviewer Steve Schuelein. A week after his six-pack, Valdez had a five-win www.oaktreeracing.com
day at Oak Tree, but fame came and went. A few years later, his weight had soared and he found himself on the rodeo circuit. He regained riding weight at least once, but was never able to capture those magic days that Oak Tree had given him. Bill Christine, an Eclipse Award-winning turf writer during a quarter-century with the Los Angeles Times, continues to write about the sport. PADDOCK 2012
For 85-year-old jockey agent Ivan Puhich, it’s been a wild, six-month ride with the Kentucky Derby-winning rider Mario Gutierrez BY STEVE SCHUELEIN t was a routine morning for jockey agent Ivan Puhich at Betfair Hollywood Park earlier this summer. After a lengthy debate in the racing office with fellow agent Jim Pegram over the relative merits of basketball stars Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, Puhich headed outside to the stable area. Puhich crossed paths with another agent, Vic Lipton, whom he addressed. When Lipton was slow to respond, Puhich got his attention by cursing at him and barking, “I asked you a question!” Puhich, 85, is still going strong as a Runyonesque icon of the sport. Ivan the Semi-Terrible acts as though he starts every day with a bowl of nails and could easily double as Clint Eastwood’s older brother. Some of the characters that Eastwood has played could have been modeled after the rangy, tough-talking Puhich. “When they made “Gran Torino,” if that wasn’t Ivan Puhich, I don’t know who it was,” said Pegram in reference to a 2008 film in which Eastwood played a disgruntled war veteran and retired Detroit auto worker. Puhich, a former boxer and ex-Marine, still strikes an imposing figure at 6-foot 2-inches and 208 pounds and can be an intimidating presence with his menacing glare and gravel-voiced growl. The late Southern California steward Pete Pedersen, a respected racing official who died on August 5 at 92, recalled a day at Golden Gate Fields long ago when he was handling the draw. Ivan and another agent both claimed to have the call on an entrant, and Pedersen told both to see the trainer to settle the dispute. The other agent came back first. “Big Ivan took me in a stall and shook me for five minutes, and I decided that he’s got the call,” the shaken agent told Pedersen. “He was a rough guy and very aggressive,” said Pedersen, who like Ivan grew up in Washington and knew him and his four brothers from a young age. “He’s a character, but he really had a soft
OAK TR E E R ACIN G AS S OCIATION
heart for the racetrack and people. I’ve always seen him as square and accommodating.” Trainer John Sadler called Puhich a “die-hard racetracker and loyal friend” but loved to tease the Methuselah of Mount-finding about his longevity. “Know who Ivan’s first rider was?” he asked. “Paul Revere with the bug.” Inimitable Ivan is the subject and teller of stories galore on the backside but none may be better than the most recent: uniting with jockey Mario Gutierrez at the beginning of the year and winning his first Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) with I’ll Have Another. Irascible Ivan and Mellow Mario formed the oddest couple since Oscar and Felix: Mario the bright-eyed, humble young rider and Ivan the scowling old agent. www.oaktreeracing.com
Ivan was born before Seabiscuit and Mario had only in recent years heard of the Kentucky Derby, but together the pair took the racing world by storm with victories in this year’s Santa Anita Derby (G1), Kentucky Derby and Preakness. But the story runs deeper than veteran agent and unheralded jockey team win the Derby. Fate brought the pair together during opening week of the Santa Anita Park meet last December, when both were invited to a birthday party for Ivan’s nephew, Mike, in the Monrovia garage of a neighbor of Ivan. Both were in need of each other. Ivan had been out of work for 18 months and battled depression after undergoing colon cancer surgery and losing a grown son to a heart attack the previous summer. Mexicanborn Mario, 25, had shone at Vancouver’s Hastings Park in British Columbia, Canada, the previous six years, but needed an experienced agent to make connections after three months of relative anonymity on the new circuit. “I was getting antsy and thought I’d better get back to work,” said Puhich from the backside trainers’ lounge at Hollywood Park. “I told Mario that I would watch him ride for a few days, and if I liked what I saw, I would go to work for him.” Ivan liked what he saw, watching Mario boot home a couple of longshots with limited opportunities, and the rest is history. Owner Paul Reddam also noticed the jockey’s skills and suggested that trainer Doug O’Neill give him a chance to work one of his horses. The horse was I’ll Have Another. O’Neill did not know Mario, but he knew Ivan. Ivan stayed home for both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, content to watch the race on tele-
The leading rider at Hastings Racecourse in Canada during 2007 and 2008, 25-year-old Mario Gutierrez is now a recognized name in the United States since hiring 85-year-old Ivan Puhich as his jockey agent.
“I told Mario that I would watch him ride for a few days, and if I liked what I saw, I would go to work for him.” –Ivan Puhich
Bill Mahorney (above), rider of Kissin’ George in 10 of his 13 career stakes wins from 1967 to 1969. Marco Castanda (right), recipient of the 34th George Woolf Memorial Award on February 12, 1983. Tyler Baze (below), winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2000.
vision and celebrate with a bottle of wine and a $100 future-book Derby wager at 100-1 odds. “I was more worried about the Preakness than the Derby,” said Puhich. “I knew he could get a mile and a quarter, and he would have gotten a mile and a half if he had run in the Belmont, but at the shorter distance of the Preakness, I thought Bodemeister might beat him. Mario rode him flawlessly in both races.” Puhich, who has spent close to seven decades on the backside, was touched by his first Kentucky Derby victory in the twilight of his career. “It’s kind of a milestone when you consider that maybe 80 agents have won it in (138) years,” said Puhich, factoring in multiple winners. “It feels pretty good at 85.” Puhich initially rose to prominence as an agent nearly a half century ago with Bill Mahorney, a rider of fiery temperament to perfectly complement his brawling agent. “I started with him in the Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos, but I told him there was more money in Thoroughbreds,” said Puhich of encouraging the switch in 1964. “I brought him over and was working in mutuels the day he broke his maiden at Hollywood Park,” continued Ivan. “I told about 10 mutuel clerks around me that he was going to win, and his horse paid $16.80. The next day, he won five at Caliente. “From there, he was leading bug boy at Del Mar, Tanforan, Bay Meadows and Santa Anita,” continued Puhich. “Then we went to New York and Chicago, and he was the leading bug at both places. There were no Eclipse Awards then. “We were together 22 years and won nearly 5,000 races,” said Puhich. “One of my favorite horses was Kissin’ George. Mahorney rode him for Buster Millerick.” Kissin’ George, a leading sprinter, won 13 stakes from 1967 through 1969, 10 with Mahorney. Puhich later developed Tyler Baze into an Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, the first West Coast rider to earn that award in 27 years, in 2000. “I flew up to Washington to see him,” said Puhich of his introduction to the teenager. “I said, ‘he’s really green, but I’ll teach him.’ “I brought him to Pleasanton, where he worked 1,000 horses before I let him start riding,” said Puhich of Baze, who flourished under his tough love. “He was sensational. Nothing bothered him.” Sadler, who put Baze on his first winner— Fleeting Wonder during the 1999 Oak Tree Racing Association meet—praised Puhich for his input. OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
“Ivan did a masterful job teaching Tyler to be a jockey,” said Sadler. “After that win, he sent him to Turf Paradise, where he won about 100 races. In his 70s, he went tromping off to Arizona to start out with a new kid.” Puhich handled several other jockeys through the years, including capable journeyman Marco Castaneda. Gutierrez is the latest to be impressed by him. “He’s a super guy, an unbelievable guy,” said Gutierrez in appreciation of the agent’s role in
Reddam Racing's I'll Have Another won the 2012 Santa Anita Derby (above), Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (left) and Preakness Stakes (below).
his meteoric rise to fame. “To be 85 years old and do what he’s doing, you have to have a passion for horse racing.” Puhich’s passion for the sport began at a young age. One of five brothers raised by parents of Croatian descent, Puhich grew up in Renton, Washington, in the shadow of Longacres Park during the Depression. “My dad worked in a coal mine that he coowned, but we lived on a seven-acre farm with cherry trees, cows and horses,” said Puhich. “People would drop horses off, and when they couldn’t pay, he would sell them.” His father introduced him to the back side as a child, and by the time he was 10, Puhich was selling copies of the Seattle PostIntelligencer in the stable area. “I had to sell three papers to make a penny,” recalled Puhich of those tough times. www.oaktreeracing.com
Ivan Puhich (right) and fellow jockey agent Tony Matos (center) with the late actor John Forsythe at the latter’s Santa Barbara Ranch.
“He’s very tenacious and the first one there every morning. He’s had some adversity in his life and been able to overcome it. He’s a fighter.” –Tony Matos
Puhich’s brother, Joe, worked as an exercise rider, and Ivan gained his first experience as an agent at 15, putting a 16-year-old apprentice on a few winners. “I always wanted to be a jock’s agent because you’re your own boss,” said Puhich, immediately relishing the job. Puhich put his racing career on hold at 17 to join the Marines for a four-year hitch. “I went from 124 pounds to 190,” said Puhich of literally growing up in uniform. He lost part of a finger on his left hand to a mine on Okinawa during World War II, and preferred not to discuss it any further because of the bad memories of so many friends lost there. After his military discharge, Puhich enrolled at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he put the boxing skills he learned in exhibitions as a teenager on display while another brother, Nick, starred for the basketball team. “I only lost one match on a team that won the national college championship in 1951,” said Puhich, who was the heavyweight at 6-foot 3inches and 190 pounds. “The next year, a boxer for Wisconsin got killed and they stopped intercollegiate boxing.” Puhich currently works out five days a week at a gym, riding a bicycle and lifting weights, and still looks as though he could spar a couple of rounds with one of the Klitschko brothers. “I’m still not afraid to challenge people, but, at 85, I don’t think there are a lot of people I’m going to beat up any more,” said Puhich self-effacingly. Through the years, Puhich cultivated a taste for wine. “My father used to drive to Napa and bring back a refrigerated car full of grapes,” said Puhich of his
early exposure to and appreciation of the wine-making process. “I used to clean the grapes.” Puhich for many years stocked a wine-filled cooler in the trunk of his car and still enjoys a couple of glasses each evening. “BV is my favorite,” said Puhich of a cabernet sauvignon brand from Beaulieu Vineyard in the Napa Valley. Puhich’s other great passion is the San Francisco 49ers football team, which he has loyally followed since 1949. The rear license plate of his car is bordered by the words “SF 49ers…Five X World Champion.” “I’ve seen all five of their Super Bowl wins,” said Puhich. “I flew up to San Francisco last year for their playoff loss to the Giants and had dinner at my favorite restaurant, Tadich Grill. I’m going with a bunch of racetrackers to the Monday night game (November 19) against the Bears this year.” Sadler recalled accompanying Puhich to the Super Bowl in 1995, when the 49ers beat the Chargers in Miami. “Ivan was wearing a 49ers hat and jacket and carrying a 49ers bag to the airport,” said Sadler. “The limo driver spotted him and asked me, ‘Is he one of the coaches?’” A good 49ers team this fall will complete Ivan’s trifecta of life with a good jockey and a good bottle of wine. Fellow agent Tony Matos has known Puhich for 40 years and has gained the utmost respect for him. “He’s very tenacious and the first one there every morning,” said Matos. “He’s had some adversity in his life and been able to overcome it. He’s a fighter.” The old fighter has taken some of life’s hardest punches and remains standing tall. Irrepressible Ivan, who has worked in jobs ranging from construction to being a longshoreman, still rises at 4 every morning without an alarm clock and would trade places with nobody. “I think racing is the most wonderful sport on this earth, and the people I’ve met in it are a cut above those I’ve met in any endeavor,” concluded Puhich. Steve Schuelein is a freelance turf writer based in Playa Del Rey. He is the Southern California correspondent for Thoroughbred Times. OAK TR E E R ACIN G AS S OCIATION
A Horse Industry
Residents of California may soon be able to not only legally bet on horse racing but also wager on athletic events at sports books and play poker online BY JACK SHINAR
fter a decade-long slump in California racing, legislation that allows sports wagering and internet poker may help the industry get back in the game. It’s conceivable that a year from now, California residents could be wagering on athletic events at racetrack or satellite racing sports books, or playing online poker on a racetrack website – in addition to betting on horse racing. That’s the goal of Horse Racing United (HRU), a not-for-profit organization formed by the state’s racetrack associations, including the Oak Tree Racing Association, and two major horsemen’s groups. The group is strongly supporting a pair of measures from Senator Roderick D. Wright (D–Inglewood), chairman of the Governmental Organization (GO) committee whose Southern California district includes Betfair Hollywood Park. Blocked from slots by a tribal gaming monopoly, the state’s racing industry has been hit hard by in-state competition for gaming dollars. Once the only legal gambling in California, racing vies with some 60 Indian casinos (operating an estimated 64,000 slot machines), 90 poker clubs and the state’s own lottery. The consequences can be seen in racing’s dwindling wagering and attendance figures, and a drastic decline in the available horse population brought about largely by a drop in the state’s breeding program. As cash-strapped California looks for untapped sources of revenue, law-
“Having Oak Tree involved in racing is a huge plus for us. Oak Tree has been around since 1969, and it has a great reputation in Sacramento.”
Though the Oak Tree Racing Association is better known for its work for charitable causes, it has been a strong legislative advocate for racing as well. According to Oak Tree Vice President Sherwood Chillingworth, the organization is represented in Sacramento by Joe A. Gonsalves & Son, the same firm that represents the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Anthony Gonsalves, Oak Tree’s and Del Mar’s legislation representative in Sacramento, was the driving force in helping to pass legislation in 2009 that shifted horse racing’s occupational license fees, amounting to more than $35 million, from funding the state fair network into horsemen’s purses and track commissions. In 2007, Oak Tree backed
makers are seriously considering sports wagering and especially online poker as immediate moneymakers. Should the current measures not make it through the Legislature to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk this year, there is every likelihood they will be re-examined in the next session. Either could substantially benefit the state’s racetracks and Thoroughbred industry. In anticipation, the industry has partnered with Las Vegas-based Cantor Gaming, part of Cantor Fitzgerald and a leading company in the field of mobile casino gaming and race and sports book wagering. Josh Rubenstein, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s senior vice president of development and spokesman for HRU, said Cantor handles 30% of the sports wagering business in Nevada. It is the exclusive operator of race and sports books for several top casinos, including the Venetian, Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo and Palms Casino Resort. While Cantor would play a prominent role in the development of sports books at California racetracks and simulcast facilities, Rubenstein said the company’s “main focus of our relationship is on internet poker.” Online poker, with a first-year $30 million license fee, could mean $300 million to the state in the initial year of operation. With the high cost of marketing, it could also mean up to a $100 million investment for a proprietor to get started. Aware of the many differing opinions of his legislation, Wright decided to pull his bill prior to a scheduled committee vote on June 12. The measure appeared to be dead for a time but Wright and Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento), President Pro Tempore of the California legislation that created a network of minisatellite locations at bars and card clubs. Oak Tree also is actively involved in promoting sports betting and online poker on behalf of racing. “Having Oak Tree involved in racing is a huge plus for us,” said Del Mar’s Josh Rubenstein, speaking for Horse Racing United. “Oak Tree has been around since 1969, and it has a great reputation in Sacramento.” Chillingworth listed internet poker and sports betting alongside slot machines as things “that are economically life-changing for the horse racing business.” “As difficult as it has been to date, I’m for every effort to get it done,” he said.
–Josh Rubenstein 16
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State Senate, were attempting to revive it in time for an August reconsideration. While they made several concessions to all interested parties, they have been steadfast about including racing in the legislation, seeing it as a way to help support an industry that remains a major part of the state’s economy. “We’re up against it here in California with states that have racetrack gaming,” Rubenstein said. “If we are going to continue to have a top-class racing circuit, we’ve got to have a way to significantly improve revenues.” Rubenstein said he’s confident racing will remain a stakeholder in online poker legislation. “It seems like that (opposition from tribes) has diluted significantly,” he said. With Nevada next door, sports betting is familiar to Californians. A recent statewide Mervin Field poll showed across-the-board support for sports wagering with 58% of registered voters in favor of legalizing it and only 35% opposed. Internet poker did not fare as well in the same poll of Californians, garnering 49% in support with 45% opposed. Paul Donahue, a staff consultant to Wright’s Senate GO committee, said the poll result was good news for sports wagering. “It wasn’t surprising to Sen. Wright,” he
said. “This is something people want and something they should have the right to do.” If sports wagering is legalized, racetracks and simulcast centers in California would have to wait for a federal ban to be lifted. New Jersey, which had already passed similar legislation, plans to challenge the ban by offering sports wagering in Atlantic City later this year. Sherwood Chillingworth, a vice president of Oak Tree, said that as much as the revenue it would generate, the sports betting bill would have an even bigger impact as a way to attract people back to the racetrack. “Sports betting would be very, very helpful to horse racing.” he said. “California is the largest wagering state in the nation. Right now, if a fan has $1,000 to bet on something, he’s either doing it illegally at an off-shore site or he’s going to go to Las Vegas. So this could be a major boon. We have lots of space at the tracks to create Vegas-style sports books.” Card clubs and Indian casinos would also have the right to expand into sports betting. Jack Shinar is a turf writer and website editor for The Blood-Horse and www.bloodhorse.com. He lives in Sacramento, California.
“Sports betting would be very, very helpful to horse racing. California is the largest wagering state in the nation. So this could be a major boon. We have lots of space at the tracks to create Vegas-style sports books.” –Sherwood C. Chillingworth
The Good Life
In Dr. Rick Arthur’s case, his 30-plus years as an equine veterinarian have placed him in the company of many top horses and leading trainers BY GENE WILLIAMS
“He is a man of great integrity and honesty and he has a remarkable love for the work he does. He is an amazingly good veterinarian and certainly a good person.” —Richard Mandella
o hat would it be like to know by the time you reach the age of 12 the life’s work you want to pursue? You can ask Dr. Rick Arthur and the answer likely would be, “Sweet, very sweet.” That’s the way it’s been with him. Dr. Arthur, a practicing equine veterinarian for more than 30 years and director of the Oak Tree Racing Association since 2002, came to his lifework decision while growing up on his family’s 15-acre breeding farm near Santa Cruz, California. “I was fascinated by the work of the veterinarians who took care of our four broodmares,” Arthur said. “And then I saw even more when we would take the mares to Laguna Seca Ranch and I would watch Dr. Jack Robbins work with the horses. “Laguna Seca (located near Monterey) was a prime breeding ranch in those days.”
That fascination for the work pushed him along to earn his degree in veterinary medicine from the University of California, Davis in 1976. His association with the university seems to have come full circle now as he is a university employee as the state’s equine medical director and as such the primary adviser to the California Horse Racing Board. That position has created something of a drawback, at least in the minds of some Southern California trainers, because Dr. Arthur no longer practices as a racetrack veterinarian. There’s no rule set in stone that says he can’t continue to practice with racehorses while holding the medical director’s position, but, he says, “I just won’t do that because I feel it would be a conflict of interest.” Why does that not surprise people such as
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Dr. Rick Arthur (left) with the Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, a 30-year client and close friend of his, at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. (opposite page)
Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, a 30year client and close friend of the doctor? “He is a man of great integrity and honesty and he has a remarkable love for the work he does,” said Mandella. “He is an amazingly good veterinarian and certainly a good person. It’s been racing’s good fortune to have Dr. Arthur among us as a working vet. We had a special relationship and it was a real luxury for me to have that association.” Ever the jokester, Mandella couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a friendly dig. “Dr. [Jack] Robbins was my first veterinarian and Rick came up under him. I inherited him when Dr. Robbins retired, so I like to call him a hand-me-down, sort of like those old shoes my older brother used to pass along to me,” the trainer said with his trademark smile and chuckle. As for his life as a veterinarian, Dr. Arthur, a resident of Sierra Madre, said, “If I couldn’t have been an equine veterinarian, I probably breeding shed. Also considered as an all-time favorite—though not a stakes winner—by the doctor was Cattle Creek, a horse he owned in partnership with his mentor, Dr. Robbins, early in his career. The marathon runner set records for 1 1/2 miles on both the main track and the turf course at Bay Meadows within a month of each other in 1979. In addition to Mandella, Dr. Arthur’s clientele has included such other major Southern Californiabased trainers as Gary Jones, Bobby Frankel, Louis Cenicola, Jay Robbins, Noble Threewitt, Warren
Among the many accomplished Thoroughbreds who have played a meaningful role in Rick Arthur’s professional and personal life was John Henry (left), the 1981 and 1984 Eclipse Horse of the Year shown with his Hall of Fame trainer, Ron McAnally.
wouldn’t have been a veterinarian of any kind because I didn’t have any interest in doctoring cats and dogs. If I hadn’t become a veterinarian, I probably could have wound up as a horse trainer.” That’s how deep his interest has always been in the equine athletes who give so much for the love of racing and the entertainment of the fans. Dr. Arthur’s love for equines has extended to being a successful owner and breeder over the years with such horses as stakes winners Guillermo and Notably Different on the racetrack and Joni U Bar and Rio Tejo in the
On September 3, 1977, Notably Different won the Chula Vista Handicap at Del Mar for the partnership of Rick Arthur, Dr. Jack Robbins and Mrs. Ralph Parsons.
Rick Arthur with jockey Alex Solis (left) and trainer Warren Stute (right) in the Del Mar winner’s circle following the victory by his homebred colt Guillermo in the 1999 Real Good Deal Stakes.
Stute and Ron McAnally. Among the major equine athletes he tended to were Kotashaan (Fr), Ancient Title, Tiznow, Pleasantly Perfect, Phone Chatter and the inimitable John Henry. In the case of the last-named, it was only natural to wonder what sort of treatments kept that old warhorse going through his remarkably lengthy and productive career which saw him race through his 9-year-old season. Dr. Arthur had this response: “On the basis of how much money he earned, his veterinary bills were incidental. I hardly did any workonhim.He was amazingly sound.” John Henry’s re-
markable career included back-to-back victories in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) in 1981 and 1982, two grade 1 Arlington Millions and three victories in both the Hollywood Invitational Handicap (G1) and Oak Tree Invitational Handicap (G1). He retired at 10 without racing that year with 39 victories in 83 starts and purse money of $6,591,860. He was twice racing’s Horse of the Year, entered racing’s Hall of Fame in 1990, and died at age 32 in 2007. The vet’s association with trainer Stute almost didn’t happen because of the beard that Arthur sported. The straight-laced
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and straight-forward Stute called him “the hippie vet,” and was dubious about using him. He relented, however, and Arthur, who still sports the beard, let his skills with horses outlive the “hippie vet” tag. In breeding, Dr. Arthur had remarkable success with Rio Tejo, whom he saved to be a broodmare after she was given to him by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Darley operation. “She had a fractured cannon bone and was about to be put down by Darley, but Gary Jones persuaded the people to give her to me,” Arthur said. “I took care of her injuries and she produced 16 foals for me. Four were stakes winners and only one was a non-winner. She died peacefully earlier this year.” Her stakes winners were Rio Oro, Guillermo, Giovannetti and Bloemer Girl, while her last two foals are yet to reach racing age. For years, Dr. Arthur has been a major player in matters of medication and safety for horses through his work with the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), of which he served as president in 1997, the California Horse Racing Board, the racetracks across California and the University of California Davis. Those matters continue to hold his attention as he goes through his daily work schedule as the state’s equine medical director. Though medication issues continue to plague many racing venues, Dr. Arthur continues to be hopeful that the issues may diminish as more standardization of the rules is accomplished.
Owned by Rick Arthur and his brother Michael, Rio Tejo produced 12 winners from 14 foals to race, including four winners of nine stakes races from 1997 to 2011, resulting in her being voted the 2003/2004 California Broodmare of the Year.
In that regard Dr. Arthur said, “We have far more widespread standards now than ever before.” The doctor also believes an eventual goal should be to simplify medication matters so the public understands things better. His presence on AAEP committees such as the Racing Committee and the National Equine Health Plan Task Force keep him abreast of all matters pertaining to the health and of the horse. He also has served on the organization’s Drugs and Medication Committee and Ethics Committee. Arthur, who was inducted into The Jockey Club in 2008, was born in Santa Rosa, California on November 17, 1948, and grew up on the family ranch. His father, H. L. “Taj” Arthur, got involved with horses as a Future Farmer during his school days when he sold his prize pigs and bought a horse. His interest in horses grew from there. Dr. Arthur’s family includes his wife Shirley, son Andrew, daughter Christa, one brother Mike, with whom he races several horses, and two sisters, Claudia and Christa. Gene Williams is a freelance journalist who has been writing about Thoroughbreds and the people associated with them for more than 30 years.
Pictured at the family’s 15-acre breeding farm near Santa Cruz, California in 1965 are Rick Arthur (right), his father “Tag” (left), mother Billie, sister Christa and nephew Michael.
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New partnership with OakTree Racing Association among innovations as Del MarThoroughbred Club celebrates 75th anniversary BY HANK WESCH
he natural and obvious theme for the 2012 racing season hosted by Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is a celebration of Del Mar’s 75th year of existence. A “Diamond Anniversary” celebration which the track, founded by Bing Crosby and some Hollywood friends in 1937, fully and justifiably plans to take gate-to-wire. But in the last two racing days of the July 18-September 5 run, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will, in a small but symbolic manner, shift the spotlight from itself to another longtime Southern California Thoroughbred racing organization. On Labor Day, September 3, the featured stakes races will include the inaugural $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf and the $250,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap (G2), the latter of which was previously run as the Palomar Handicap since 1945. On closing day, September 5, the inaugural $100,000 Oak Tree Juvenile Turf will be introduced on the undercard for the traditional closing-day feature, the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1). Circumstances presented Del Mar, 75 and thriving, with an opportunity to give a nod to the Oak Tree Racing Association, dormant since 2010 after four decades of leasing the Santa Anita Park facility to run a month-long fall meet “for horsemen by horsemen.” An opportunity that was not missed.
Bing Crosby greets the first of about 15,000 patrons through the gates during Del Mar’s opening day on July 3, 1937.
Racing secretaries have perceived a need for stakes events to identify and determine candidates for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) since those events were added to the Breeders’ Cup programs in 2007 and 2008, respectively. And such races were deemed especially necessary in California this year with the Breeders’ Cup scheduled for a return to Santa Anita on November 2-3. “Once we had established that California was going to run 2-year-old turf stakes (additional qualifiers will be staged at Santa Anita and in Northern California), we had to come up with names for the races,” said Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s racing secretary. “We had been having conversations with Oak Tree, and we proposed that we put their name on those races and also change the Palomar to the Yellow Ribbon as a way of keeping that (name) tradition alive.” The proposal was readily accepted by the Oak Tree Racing Association, which will supply part of the purse for all three races. “I thought it was very generous of Del Mar to do that,” said Sherwood Chillingworth, a vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association. “The Del Mar people have been interwoven with us through the years, and we were delighted we were asked.” “I think (the juvenile stakes) will attract a lot of good 2-year-olds,” Chillingworth added. “The good ones are coming out here for the Breeders’ Cup anyway.”
For 75 years, fans have flocked to watch exciting racing at Del Mar. (opposite page)
“Del Mar at 75: Where the Turf Meets the Surf” commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club this year. PADDOCK 2012
The Yellow Ribbon, contested at 1 1/4 miles on turf, counted Eclipse Champion Turf Female honorees Estrapade (1985), Brown Bess (1989) and Golden Apples (Ire) (2002) among its winners from its 1977 start to 2010. The Palomar, a Del Mar fixture since 1945, is carded at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Only Kilijaro and Tranquility Lake have won both the Yellow Ribbon and the Palomar in their original incarnations. “The Palomar is exactly the same race; it remains a Grade 2,” Robbins said. “All we’re doing is renaming it and adding another $100,000 to the purse which Oak Tree came up with. Santa Anita is in the process of changing the names on some of its races for the fall meet. It will have a
mainland Sunday and drive to Del Mar for the races bearing Oak Tree names that start on Monday. If the Oak Tree brand showing up on new and old races during the Del Mar meet is taken as a reminder or message to Southern California horsemen and fans that the association is still a viable entity with designs on being part of the future, that is “precisely” the desired effect, Chillingworth said. “Some day, the next two or three years, we hope to get back into our normal (routine), racing six weeks a year,” he said. “We’re still involved in legislation in Sacramento regarding poker and sports betting,” Chillingworth said. “One of these days, Hollywood Park’s property is going to be developed,
Grade 1 for fillies and mares, but it won’t be called the Yellow Ribbon.” Lou Rowan, a founding father of the Oak Tree Racing Association along with Dr. Jack Robbins and Clement L. Hirsch, is credited with naming a race which for many years served as the closing-week highlight of the meet. Rowan was no doubt inspired by the 1973 hit “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn, featuring Tony Orlando, which was the top-selling single in the United States that year. Chillingworth and his wife plan to attend the wedding of his nephew in the Hawaiian Islands on Friday, August 31. They will catch a red-eye flight from Kona on Saturday evening to be back on the
the spring (racing) dates will open and we hope to get back to our regular six weeks.” Oak Tree was the host association for Breeders’ Cup events in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008 and 2009 during the 40-year period in which it leased the Santa Anita facility to run its fall meet. The good will thus established could be valuable the next time racing’s fall championship returns to Southern California. But principals for both groups emphasize that a longsought-after Breeders‘ Cup at Del Mar would be entirely under the auspices of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. For now, the named races serve to solidify the relationship.
The Many Facets of Del Mar
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“It was tough watching from afar, but not that far, to see the way it all came down,” said Tom Robbins, son of Oak Tree co-founder Jack Robbins. “Oak Tree played an important part in California racing. It came in and occupied a critical spot on the calendar through the association with Santa Anita and made a lot of major contributions to the game. As a nonprofit, they contributed a lot to the betterment of the horses and humans through major financial contributions to the industry. To have them sort of quietly slip away might have been understandable from a business standpoint, but it was frustrating for them and for those of us who had been deeply involved in the effort for so many years.”
thought it would be fitting that we have some kind of relationship and this is what we came up with. “It’s a great way of keeping the great name of Oak Tree alive and recognizing the contributions they’ve made over the 40 years of their existence.” It is actually the 73rd racing season at Del Mar—three years (1942-1944) were lost to World War II—but 75, the Diamond Anniversary number, figures to be cited at least 75 times more often during the seven weeks of five racing days each in 2012. Coincidentally, the stakes purse total, which includes seven Grade 1 events among 20 graded stakes races, of $7.775 million, includes nothing but sevens and fives. In 2011, Del Mar projected offering the richest
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club CEO, President and General Manager Joe Harper got his start in track management when he was named executive vice president at Oak Tree in 1971. He served in that capacity through 1977 before moving on to Del Mar. Harper said the idea of putting Oak Tree names on Del Mar races represented “my roots calling out to me.” “It seemed like such a shame to just have Oak Tree fade off,” Harper said. “They’ve done such a great service to our industry distributing their profit for the good of the game and various philanthropic endeavors. Oak Tree and Del Mar are fairly similar in that we are not-for-profit, and I
overnight purse schedule in the country, and in the history of California, with more than $400,000 per day. When all figures were in for the seven-week, 37-racing-day session, the total daily purse average figure was $630,000. In early July 2012, plans were announced for increases in most levels and types of races in 2012, making for an even higher overall purse offering for the newest meet. Pre-season ticket sales, as reported by Harper, indicated Del Mar’s popularity remains high with the roughly 30,000-seat capacity, selling out quickly for opening day and approaching capacity for several other weekends. The track’s signature event, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic
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Stakes (G1), the only remaining seven-figure purse race on the California Thoroughbred calendar, highlights a card of three graded stakes on August 26. California-bred Acclamation, owned by Bud and Judy Johnston and Pete and Mary Hilvers of Old English Rancho, trained by Don Warren and ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, won the 2011 Pacific Classic five weeks after producing a win in the Eddie Read Stakes (G1), the meeting’s top grass race. The tour-de-force performance made Acclamation a unanimous choice as the Horse of the Meeting, and his accomplishments at Del Mar contributed to an overall 2011 résumé that resulted in Acclamation being voted an Eclipse Award in the Older Male category. After making his 2012 debut in the spring, Acclamation, now 6 years old, successfully defended his title in the Eddie Read and was scheduled to try and do the same in the Pacific Classic on August 26. Items on the 2012 Del Mar menu of special interest to Thoroughbred owners were the reprise of the commended “Ship and Win” program begun in 2011 and the inauguration of a “race-ready” horse sale. The “Ship and Win” program of 2011, intended to lure out-of-state horses to compete at Del Mar, was credited with doing so to the extent of more than 100 horses being brought in from other racing jurisdictions, helping to increase field size and causing a positive carryover effect for other Southern California race meets. The 2011 rules guaranteed all horses that raced at the meet that had started outside
California in their previous outing a check for $1,000, plus an additional bonus of 20% added to whatever purse monies won in that first Del Mar start. The rules for 2012 remain the same, with the exception that the purse bonus has been increased to 25%. Del Mar is again working with the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) in the program. “We partnered with Del Mar on this last summer and were pleased with the outcome,” said TOC President Lou Raffetto. “Not only did it provide additional runners at their meet, but many of the horses stayed and ran at Santa Anita’s fall meet and at Hollywood Park too. If we can get horses out here to race, they’re likely to stay. So bringing the program back—and making it even better—was the right thing to do this time around.” The race-ready sale is also intended to bring out-of-state horses onto the Del Mar/California racing scene with the additional potential to introduce new owners to the business given its “one-stop shopping” possibilities. Barretts Equine Limited, California’s premier horse auction company, conducted the sale on July 22. The “Del Mar Paddock Sale, presented by Sentient Jet” saw 25 horses, of all ages and ready for racing at the Del Mar meet, sell for a total of $933,000.
The Old English Rancho homebred Acclamation (red and white silks) won the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar last year en route to being named the 2011 Eclipse Champion Older Male. (opposite page)
The horses break from the gate for the first race on opening day of Del Mar’s 2012 meet.
Hank Wesch is a freelance writer, retired after a 36-year career of sports writing for the San Diego UnionTribune, and author of Del Mar: Where The Turf Meets The Surf published by History Press.
BY JAY HOVDEY
Samantha Siegel’s lifelong passion for racing burns brightly as she expands the legacy of her family’s Jay Em Ess Stable
he idea of maintaining a first-class racing stable over a span of generations is one of those American myths that just won’t die. The same names are trotted out as laudable examples—Whitney, Phipps, Galbreath, DuPont—but by now their numbers have dwindled, while major patrons come and go with the seasons. Torches are no longer passed. They fizzle. Which makes the legacy of the Mace and Jan Siegel Thoroughbred operation an exception to most recent trends. From a stable born in the blush of early romance, through decades as a passionate family pastime, horses who carry the OAKTREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Siegel colors continue to play at the highest levels, despite the fact that Jan Siegel died in 2002 and Mace passed away in 2011. Samantha Siegel, the couple’s only daughter, has spent most of her 47 years sharing the agonies and ecstasies of horse racing with her parents. There was never really a question of whether or not she would carry on, even though in the wake of her father’s death she could have taken the family’s fortunes and played elsewhere. “It’s hard enough to find something you truly love, something you can put your energy into,” Samantha said not long ago. Evidence suggests Samantha Siegel’s horses will do just fine, racing under the monogrammatic Jay Em Ess Stable banner. In 2012, the colt Redeemed, the filly Include Me Out and the veteran gelding Rail Trip have been leading the way with victories in such prestigious events as Belmont Park’s Brooklyn Handicap (G2) and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) and San Diego Handicap (G2), respectively. They are adding to a history that traces to the day when real estate hotshot Mace
Siegel of Jersey City fell hook, line and sinker for jazz singer Jan Winston after their first date—at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York. After dabbling in the claiming game, the Siegels improved their stock and by the late 1970s were racing in both Florida and California. Their first impact out west was at Del Mar, where the Nodouble colt Singular carried the silks of Jan Siegel to victory in the 1978 La Jolla Mile Stakes (G3), then came right
Jay Em Ess Stable color bearer Rail Trip easily won the $700,000 TVG/BETFAIR Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap (G1) in 2009.
Mace, Jan and Samantha Siegel in the Directors’ Room at Santa Anita Park during the 1990s. www.oaktreeracing.com
Among the graded stakes winners campaigned by the Siegels over the years are: Singular, 1978 La Jolla Mile Stakes (G3); Urbane, 1996 John Morris Handicap (G1); and Declan’s Moon, 2004 Hollywood Futurity (G1). (top to bottom)
back to finish second in the Del Mar Derby (G3). In 1979, the Siegels were back in the thick of the action with their small California string when Ardiente, a son of Fiddle Isle, won the Cortez Handicap on the Hollywood Park turf and finished second in the track’s historic Sunset Handicap (G1) to Sirlad (Ire), the Italian champion. Proving he could do anything you asked over a route of ground, Ardiente won the Del Mar Invitational Handicap (G2) that summer at about a mile and a quarter on the main track. “Jan and I went back to the hotel and celebrated as much as we could,” Mace Siegel once recalled of their reaction to Ardiente’s Del Mar victory. “We went to bed, woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning still excited, then called the guys downstairs who parked the cars. We told them to steal a couple of bottles of champagne and come on up. That’s how euphoric it was.” In 1981, also at Del Mar, the Siegels watched their colors carried to victory in the Junior Miss Stakes by the Northerly filly Buy My Act. They were off and running. “Of course I remember all those races,” said Samantha, a teen at the time. “The racetrack was my second home.” Eddie Gregson trained both Singular and Ardiente, while Brian Mayberry handled Buy My Act. It was under Mayberry’s guidance that the Siegel runners established a national reputation, beginning in the late 1980s. They were fast and they came in waves. Among the races won by the Siegels were the
Sorority at Monmouth Park, the Spinaway and the A Phenomenon at Saratoga and the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland. Between 1988 and 1992, the fillies Distinctive Sis, Garden Gal, Fluttery Danseur and Zealous Connection won four of the five runnings of the graded Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park. Stormy But Valid established herself as one of the top female sprinters in the land, winning three major California stakes in 1990. The Mayberry years with the Siegel horses climaxed with the career of Urbane. The daughter of Citidancer turned her $25,000 yearling price into more than $1 million in earnings with three outstanding campaigns, from 1994 through 1996, during which she won the Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, the Maryland Million Oaks at Laurel Park, the Delaware Handicap (G3) at Delaware Park and the John A. Morris Handicap (G1) at Saratoga. Mayberry trained Urbane at 2 and 3, while Randy Bradshaw took over for her late sophomore and 4-year-old seasons. By then, the Siegels had begun to spread their horses around to other trainers as well, primarily Ron Ellis in California and Paul McGee in Kentucky, then later adding Rick Dutrow in New York. Good returns continued, although their horses were beginning to drift away from early 2year-old scores to more closely strive after the high bar established by Urbane. “I think that’s a natural evolution if you are in the business for any period of time,” Samantha said. “At first, you need the action of young horses while you’re building a stable. When you’re more established, you can go for horses who might take a little longer to develop, but who have a greater earnings potential once they do.” In the spring of 1998, Hedonist won the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and I Ain’t Bluffing won the Milady Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G1) at Hollywood Park. Other stakes were gobbled up by Miss Pickums and Here’s Zealous, and then, during a glorious week in September 2004, Love of Money captured the rich Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and Declan’s Moon won the Del Mar Futurity (G2) on his way to an undefeated season and a divisional title as the 2004 Eclipse Champion 2-Year-Old Male. “The highs are very high, and you don’t have OAKTREE RACING ASSOCIATION
enough of them to get bored with it,” Mace said at the time. “A week like this? There’s nothing like it. You begin to feel like a masochist, then all of a sudden something good happens. And you never expect it.” After Jan’s death in 2002, Mace and Samantha carried on as the Jay Em Ess Stable, a name that embraced both their initials and the determination that it would always be a family enterprise. In time, Samantha would become more and more involved in the purchase of bloodstock, eventually becoming stable manager, with Mace ever present as her invaluable consigliere. “Sam runs the operation, communicates with the trainers, handles all the details,” Mace said in 2010. “I’m the money, although I am happy to offer the advice of my experience. About ninety-eight percent of the time, however, that advice is not taken.” He added that last part with a dose of the familiar Mace Siegel dry humor, because for the most part, father and daughter were on the same page. During the last part of the new century’s first decade, the Siegels won major races for older horses with Arson Squad (Swaps Breeders’ Cup Stakes-G2, Strub Stakes-G2) and Rail Trip (Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap-G1, Californian Stakes-G2). Their talented 2-year-old Boys At Tosconova wowed the Saratoga summer crowd with his victory in the 2010 Hopeful Stakes (G1), then came back to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Golden Itiz won the 2010 Affirmed Handicap (G3) at Hollywood. Vision in Gold won the 2011 Santa Maria Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita.
Include Me Out held on to win the 2012 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar on August 4.
Even as he battled illness, Mace Siegel remained a tireless advocate urging his fellow owners to become active in steering the racing business toward greater unity and higher goals. He was among the founding members of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and his contributions to racing charities continue to reap benefits. His daughter took her turn as a member of the owners’ organization, but Samantha’s preference is to maintain the example of a well-run racing stable still playing at the top of the game. “I haven’t changed things from the way we operated with my dad,” Samantha said. “We had a pretty good program in place.” “Still, it’s not easy,” she added. “I wish there was more stability in the major racing centers like California, New York and Kentucky. When you buy yearlings, you like to be able to count on the fact there will be places to run them. There’s too much uncertainty right now.” Enough to tempt a second-generation horse owner to call it a day? “No, it’s pretty hard to stop doing something you’ve been doing so long,” Samantha said. “Sometimes I think we’re crazy to do it. But I can’t remember when horse racing wasn’t a big part of my life.”
“I haven’t changed things from the way we operated with my dad. We had a pretty good program in place.” —Samantha Siegel
Jay Hovdey, a four-time Eclipse Awardwinning writer, is the executive columnist for Daily Racing Form. www.oaktreeracing.com
The Wild West Jockey Mike Smith celebrates at Santa Anita Park after Zenyatta becomes the first female to win the Breedersâ€™ Cup Classic (G1) in 2009. 32
Dominant distaffers, disqualiﬁcations and an unprecedented dead-heat have distinguished eight action-packed editions of Breeders’ Cup in California
BY LISA GROOTHEDDE
lthough $10 million cannot be considered modest by any standard, the number appears strangely small when it is compared to, say, $25.5 million. That is the purse money that awaits horses and their humans during the 2012 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be contested at Santa Anita Park on Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3. Since the Breeders’ Cup was first held in 1984, its race schedule has swollen alongside its purse structure; this year, the competition will comprise 15 races. Along with that growth has been an increased interest from Breeders’ Cup officials to conduct the event in Southern California, the site of many memorable performances to date. The 2012 Breeders’ Cup will be the ninth held in California, and the first hosted outright by Santa Anita. Hollywood Park provided the setting in 1984, 1987 and 1997, and the not-for-profit Oak Tree Racing Association hosted the event at Santa Anita to widespread acclaim in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008 and 2009. In addition to lofty purses, Breeders’ Cup offers prestige to its participants. To date, there have been 33 equine Eclipse Award recipients who won Breeders’ Cup races in California. The winners of this year’s races and subsequent accolades have yet to be determined. But a review of the first eight Breeders’ Cup competitions conducted in the Golden State hints at the exciting possibilities on tap. With total prize money of $10 million on the line, the 1984 Breeders’ Cup attracted 68 starters, an on-track crowd of 64,254 and an estimated 50 million television viewers for its initial seven-race program at Hollywood Park on November 10. Kicking off the lucrative race series was the colt Chief’s Crown, who carried jockey Don MacBeth to victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and topped an opening-race trifecta that included 1985 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Tank’s Prospect in second and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Spend a Buck in third. Although the inaugural event produced commendable winners, including Lashkari (GB) in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), Princess Rooney in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Royal Heroine (Ire) in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) and Eillo in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), it is perhaps best remembered for two controversial calls by the stewards. California-bred Fran’s Valentine briefly etched her name in history as the first winner of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but it was just as quickly erased when the 74-1 longshot was disqualified for bumping 10th-place finisher Pirate’s Glow in upper stretch and subsequently placed behind that opponent in the official order of finish. The victory was then granted to original second-place finisher Outstandingly. In the roughly run, $3 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the win by 31-1 outsider Wild Again withstood a stewards’ inquiry, but runner-up Gate Dancer was disqualified to third for interference. PADDOCK 2012
Chief’s Crown won the 1984 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). (top, left) Laffit Pincay, Jr. rode two Breeders’ Cup winners in 1986. (top, right) At 56, Bill Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race when he guided Ferdinand to victory in the 1987 Classic. (bottom, left)
The most successful longshot in Breeders’ Cup history was 133-1 Classic winner Arcangues in 1993. (bottom, right)
Two years after Hollywood Park originated the championship event, the traveling caravan returned to Southern California for its first stint at Santa Anita Park on November 1, 1986. Racing Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. rode with gusto, capturing bookend wins with Capote in the Juvenile and Skywalker in the Classic. With her remarkable eighth Grade 1 victory of her 4-year-old season in the Distaff, the Secretariat filly Lady’s Secret secured her status as North America’s 1986 Eclipse Horse of the Year. Also performing admirably on the day were Turf winner Manila, Sprint winner Smile, Juvenile Fillies winner Brave Raj and Mile winner Last Tycoon (Ire). A battle royale between Thoroughbred titans in the Classic—1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand and 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba—headlined the 1987 Breeders’ Cup, which returned to the site of its inaugural running at Hollywood Park on November 21. At the end of the 1 1/4-mile test, only a nose separated the two colts, with Ferdinand enshrining his Hall of Fame rider, 56-year-old Bill Shoemaker, as the oldest jockey to ever win a Breeders’ Cup race.
Another major match-up went to Theatrical (Ire), who finished a half-length ahead of reigning Arc de Triomphe (G1) winner Trempolino in the Turf. A talented trio of 3-year-old fillies also shared the limelight in 1987. Defeating older males on the Hollywood grass course was Miesque, who captured the first of her two consecutive wins in the Mile; defeating older males on the Hollywood dirt was Very Subtle, who outperformed her 16-1 odds with a four-length score in the six-furlong Sprint. Also making great strides for her age was the sophomore filly Sacahuista, who gave Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his third straight victory in the Distaff. Lukas also won the Juvenile that year with front-runner Success Express. The equivalent race for females, the Juvenile Fillies, was stolen by 30-1 deep closer Epitome. The biggest surprise of the 1993 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita was saved for the final race of the November 6 program: the unpredictable Classic, in which 133-1 longshot Arcangues outran a dozen rivals to produce the highest payout in event history: $269.20 for a $2 win bet. Jockey Eddie Delahoussaye left his mark on the
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day with a pair of victories: first aboard Hollywood Wildcat in the Distaff, then on Cardmania in the Sprint. East Coast shipper Lure became the second back-to-back winner of the Mile on a firm grass course that also provided the footing for a Turf win by Kotashaan (Fr), a five-time Grade 1 winner in 1993 who sealed his successful Horse of the Year bid with his Breeders’ Cup triumph. Representing the younger set, Brocco charged to a five-length win in the Juvenile and Phone Chatter got her head in front at the wire of the Juvenile Fillies. Runaway victories were the order of the day on November 8, 1997, as Hollywood Park hosted its third and most recent edition of the Breeders’ Cup, a veritable chalkfest during which five of the seven wagering favorites won their respective races. Countess Diana’s 8 1/2-length romp in the Juvenile Fillies opener set the stage for a program that also featured subsequent Horse of the Year Favorite Trick’s 5 1/2-length rout in the Juvenile and Skip Away’s sixlength dominance in the Classic. Two offspring of 1984 Breeders’ Cup winners replicated their sires’ affinity for Hollywood. Chief Bearhart, a son of inaugural Juvenile winner Chief’s Crown, captured the Turf, and Elmhurst, by original Classic winner Wild Again, rocketed from last to first in the 14-horse Sprint. Rounding out the 1997 card were victories by Ajina in the Distaff and Spinning World in the Mile. With temperatures at Santa Anita hovering at a steamy 99 degrees and a light dusting of ash from a nearby wildfire shrouding the track during the week leading up to the October 25 event, the ambiance of the 2003 Breeders’ Cup was decidedly hot—especially for Californiawww.oaktreeracing.com
based Richard Mandella. The Hall of Fame trainer saddled a record four winners in the eight designated stakes races for total purse money of more than $4.1 million. In addition to surprising the Classic field with 14-1 longshot Pleasantly Perfect and the Juvenile field with 26-1 outsider Action This Day, Mandella played a key role in two of the day’s most memorable achievements: his fellow Hall of Famer Julie Krone became the first female jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race aboard the Mandella-trained Halfbridled in the Juvenile Fillies, and his charge Johar battled with defending race winner High Chaparral (Ire) to the wire of the 1 1/2-mile Turf, delivering the first dead-heat victory in Breeders’ Cup history. European fillies Six Perfections (Fr) and Islington (Ire) scored respective wins in the Mile and the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), while longshots Adoration and Cajun Beat rewarded their backers with win payoffs of $83.40 in the Distaff and $47.60 in the Sprint, respectively. For his successful rides aboard Pleasantly Perfect and Johar, jockey Alex Solis was presented with the inaugural Bill Shoemaker Award for outstanding Breeders’ Cup performance. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships marked a number of milestones when its 25th anniversary was celebrated at Santa Anita on October 24-25, 2008. For the first time, Thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious event was conducted on a synthetic
Favorite Trick won the 1997 Juvenile en route to being named Horse of the Year.
Johar (outside) and High Chaparral (Ire) delivered the first dead-heat victory of the series in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
Julie Krone became the first female jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race aboard 2003 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Halfbridled.
Trainer Richard Mandella saddled a record four Breeders’ Cup winners at Santa Anita in 2003.
main surface, specifically Pro-Ride. Three new races—the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon, all ungraded for their initial runnings— were added to the menu, bringing the total number of Breeders’ Cup races to 14. Most significantly to the Southern California economy, however, Santa Anita was honored as the first racetrack to host backto-back editions of the Breeders’ Cup when officials announced the Arcadia landmark would conduct the festivities again in 2009. Hometown heroine Zenyatta served notice of greatness yet to come when she rallied from last under jockey Mike Smith to capture the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1), formerly contested as the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. The magnetic Street Cry (Ire) mare would go on to merit a 2010 Horse of the Year trophy for owners Jerry and Ann Moss and ultimately retire at 6 with a career bankroll of $7,304,580 as the highest-earning female Thoroughbred in North American racing history. Zenyatta’s dance into the winner’s circle capped the opening day of 2008 Breeders’ Cup activities, collectively dubbed “All-Female Friday” with its grouping of five races for fillies and mares. Interestingly, all five contests were won by powerful stretch moves. Ventura began the carnival for closers with her victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and was followed by Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Maram, Juvenile Fillies winner Stardom Bound and Filly & Mare Turf winner Forever Together.
Foreign runners dominated the Saturday proceedings, starting with Muhannak (Ire) in the opening Marathon and concluding with Raven’s Pass in the Classic climax. In between, Donativum (GB) captured the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, Conduit (Ire) proved best in the Turf and the Wertheimer and Frere homebred 3-year-old filly Goldikova (Ire), second only to Zenyatta on the all-time female earnings list with $7,176,551 to her credit, emerged as a superstar with her hardfought victory over older males in the Mile—her first of a record three consecutive wins in the race. American-based horses were represented by repeat winner Midnight Lute in the Sprint, Desert Code in the Turf Sprint, Albertus Maximus in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and, finally, Midshipman in the Juvenile, a race in which 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird ironically ran 12th and last. The 2008 Breeders’ Cup came to a classy con-
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clusion when the Santa Anita faithful graciously applauded reigning Horse of the Year Curlin as he walked off the track after he finished a tiring fourth in his title defense of the Classic. On November 7, 2009, the stately Santa Anita grandstand, which had borne witness to fan favorites Seabiscuit and John Henry in heydays past, again shook to its rafters with a thunderous roar from the crowd when Zenyatta made a powerful late move against a top-class field to become the first female winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and to remain undefeated from 14 career starts. Her unprecedented accomplishment under Smith provided a fairytale ending to two days of thrilling Breeders’ Cup competition, which also featured other standout performances by members of her gender. Zenyatta’s stablemate, Life Is Sweet, gave trainer John Shirreffs a proverbial feather in his base-
ball cap when she captured the Ladies’ Classic on November 6, shortly after 3-year-old Midday (GB) defeated her elders in the Filly & Mare Turf and She Be Wild and Informed Decision sewed up Eclipse Awards for their divisions with respective victories in the Juvenile Fillies and the Filly & Mare Sprint. Goldikova extended the feminine trend on the male-dominated Saturday program when she won her second Mile, and the first of two eventual Eclipse Awards as North America’s Champion Turf Female, with a four-wide rally on the Santa Anita sod. Led by Conduit, who repeated his 2008 triumph in the Turf, the European delegation took plenty of hardware back across the pond in 2009. Man of Iron kicked off the two-day event with a nose victory in the 1 3/4-mile Marathon, Pounced lived up to his name in the Grade 2 Juvenile Turf and 30-1 Vale of York (Ire) surprised in the Juvenile. In other action, Dancing in Silks got the best of an electrifying four-horse photo in the Sprint, Tapitsfly won the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Furthest Land upset the newly granted Grade 1 Dirt Mile at 21-1 and California Flag gamely led from start to finish in the 14-horse Turf Sprint.
Goldikova (Ire) defeated males in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
To the delight of her many loyal fans, Zenyatta reached the Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle at Santa Anita in 2008 and 2009.
Lisa Groothedde, a national award-winning former editor of The Texas Thoroughbred, is the owner of Thoroughbred Information Agency and www.thoroughbredinfo.com.
Trainer Bill Spawr’s early morning routine has yielded tremendous success and lasting relationships BY STEVE ANDERSEN ometimes the alarm starts blaring at 1:50 a.m., sometimes it is set as late as 2:45 a.m. Those are the mornings when California trainer Bill Spawr sleeps in. Either way, Spawr starts his day at an hour when the most adventuresome are ending their days, if they are awake at all. “I’m not normal, I guess,” he said. That’s cool. Such a lifestyle works for Spawr, and has for decades. An early start is how Spawr has built his stable into one of the most respected in Southern California, and how he has developed stakes winners such as Bordonaro, Enjoy the Moment, Exchange, Ismene and Sensational Star in the 1990s and 2000s. The dedication is how he developed Amazombie, the Eclipse Award winner as the Champion Male Sprinter of 2011. Spawr says he has never had more fun. “It’s been a good year,” he said during the summer. Spawr took 38 horses to Del Mar. The most prominent is Amazombie, who gave Spawr his first national championship. The title was clinched by an electrifying win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs last fall, the trainer’s first win in the historic race series. After the race, Spawr, who co-owns Amazombie with Tom Sanford, admitted to being more stunned than elated. It was not until the next day, while traveling to Cincinnati for a plane trip home, that the magnitude of the win struck him. “It didn’t hit me,” he said of the hours after the race. “The next day, I went and checked on the horse. I was driving and my partner Tom Sanford called me.”
“He said, ‘We have the fastest horse in the world.’ I thought about it and I said, ‘you’re right.’” —Bill Spawr
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“He said, ‘Bill, we have the fastest horse in the world.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘We have the fastest horse in the world. I thought about it and I said, ‘You’re right.‘” Getting Amazombie back to the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park is the main goal for 2012. So far this year, Amazombie has won the Potrero Grande Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita and the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) at Del Mar. He also ran a game second to Shackleford in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2). The form of that race was flattered when Shackleford next won the Metropolitan Handicap (G1). Spawr was not the sort of trainer to spend the night of the Breeders’ Cup on the town in Louisville, celebrating the milestone victory. With the late start of racing that day, Spawr checked on the horse after the race, had a meal and then went back to the hotel. The day’s final race was the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), which was run at 7:30 p.m., under lights. “I watched the Classic in bed,” he said. Two months later, at the Eclipse Awards ceremony, Spawr was sat between good friends, retired trainer Jenine Sahadi and retired Racing Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. Pincay and Spawr were a wickedly successful combo for many years, one bettors ignored at their own peril. There were no champions in the barn then, just plenty of winners. So when Amazombie’s name was announced, Spawr remembers that it was Pincay who led the celebrations.
Bill Spawr has been the leading trainer twice at Del Mar and four times at Santa Anita Park, including during the Oak Tree Racing Association’s meets of 2000 and 2001.
“I don’t think they’d said ‘Ama. . .’ and Laffit was out of his chair,” he said. The early bird in Spawr is a throwback to the days of trainers such as the late Charles Whittingham or Joe Manzi or contemporaries such as Jerry Hollendorfer and Mike Puype, who believe a pre-dawn start is the ideal way to operate. Depending on which track is operating, Spawr is typically at the stable around 3 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. He is joined by three assistants. “We check legs,” he said. “We go through all the horses and make sure they are ready to train.” Typically, the last horses are back to the barn by 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m., well before training ends for others. Then, it’s back home for a break and to the track for an afternoon of races. Between races, Spawr and his chief assistant, Darryl Rader, can be found along the paddock rail, inspecting runners for a forthcoming race. Each will have their programs open, writing down notes about the condition of horses. It is best not to approach Spawr at this time; he is deep in thought. This is the equivalent of a football coach watching practice. Knowledge gained at this time of day will be discussed again between Rader and Spawr when potential claims are considered.
California-bred Amazombie (opposite page) provided Bill Spawr, co-owner Tom Sanford and jockey Mike Smith (left to right) with a victory in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) and a subsequent Eclipse Award as North America’s Champion Male Sprinter.
Rader has been with Spawr for more than two decades, a familiar theme with many of the trainer’s employees. Chris Aplin, who runs the stable’s administration, first joined the team in 1980, working as an exercise rider until she suffered a leg injury in 2009. She focuses on office work these days, while also operating popular barber shops at Del Mar and Santa Anita. When Aplin first began working for Spawr, he was not the early bird he is today, she said.
“You can’t work with someone for so many years and not have a personal relationship. He’s quirky, but that’s part of what people like about him.” —Chris Aplin
“When I first started working for him, he didn’t show up for the first set or two,” she said. “He used to get there at 6:30. He’s changed his work ethic.” “Some ways, he hasn’t changed at all,” she said. “I don’t think he took things as seriously back then. I think he came from a light-hearted kind of a gambler’s (approach). As he became more successful with claims and winning races, he got more hands-on with horses.” “You can’t work with someone for so many years and not have a personal relationship. He’s quirky, but that’s part of what people like about him.” Spawr has always had a dry sense of humor. On a wet Sunday at Santa Anita in January 1995, Spawr won the first race with the mare Desert Orchid. It was the only race run that day because of track conditions. The rest of the card was cancelled. “Hey, I swept the card,” he told a friend later. At the races, Spawr and Rader are often seen in each other’s company. In the mornings, Rader is often in the stands, watching all horses train, looking for prospects to claim.
“He eliminates a lot of horses,” Spawr said of Rader’s expertise. With such an early start, Spawr is not one for late-night television. It’s often lights out by 7:30 p.m. “I’ve been in bed as early as 5:30, especially after a long day, if I’ve run a lot of horses,” he said. “I put in a lot more hours.” A Southern California native, Spawr began training in 1977 and won his first six-figure stakes in 1986 at Turf Paradise. He had his first million-dollar season in 1990, the year that My Sonny Boy won the California Cup Classic Handicap. Such success was commonplace through the 1990s and 2000s, until the stable had a few relatively quiet years in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, Amazombie led a team that earned more than $1.9 million, the stable’s highest figure since the $2.4 million amassed in 2002. Spawr’s most prolific period
was a three-year span from 2000 to 2002, when he won 83, 81 and 74 races and more than $7.7 million in purses during those seasons. He started a career-high 460 horses in 2001. By comparison, he won 22 races from 139 starters in 2011. In 2001, he won the training title at the Oak Tree Racing Association meet, the sixth and most recent of his titles. He has won two titles each at Del Mar, Oak Tree and the Santa Anita winter/spring meetings in his career. Such goals are not as realistic in the current market, with trainers such as Bob Baffert and John Sadler campaigning larger stables. Still, those barns
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must compete with horses such as Amazombie, who has won seven stakes and $1,905,378. The win in the Breeders’ Cup was the culmination of years of training theories put to work, Aplin said. “It was a dream come true,” she said. “He worked
so hard. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.” So what are Spawr’s secrets? He’s not telling all of them. Obviously, getting an early start each morning, without distractions from the rest of the barn area, allows time for an honest assessment of a horse’s training and racing capabilities. Having a faithful staff that has been with him for decades allows them all to think on similar lines, recalling similar scenarios in the past. “A lot of it is instinct,” Spawr said, speaking generally. “We’ve improved a lot of horses.” This fall, Amazombie’s campaign will be the focus of the stable. There is also the reigning California Champion 2-Year-Old Female Ismene, who won the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes at Santa Anita last fall but was later sidelined by a leg injury. She races for breeder Stephen Ferraro. Over the summer, Spawr added Miles Rules to his stable. A 4-year-old filly, she won the 2011 Melair Stakes at Hollywood Park. Miles Rules could start in stakes this fall for owner Halo Farms. The 38 runners who went to Del Mar represent a larger team than in recent years, but is down from the early 2000s when the late Sid Craig supported the stable. “I’ve had as many as 50,” Spawr said. Horses such as Amazombie make the pre-dawn
Among the loyal friends and professional associates of Bill Spawr are his chief assistant, Darryl Rader (above, right), and the retired Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. (below, right).
starts easier. Asked if he is too dedicated to his job, Spawr admits that is the case. “Probably,” he said. “Everyone has an outlet; this is probably mine.” When he is away from the track, he enjoys a pick-up game of basketball, his favorite way to keep fit. He has two brothers, one in Riverside and another who resides in Arizona. Spawr does not have any children. “I’ve got 38 of the four-legged ones,” he said, looking across the barn. Checking on them at the end of the morning is as much a part of the routine as doing so at 4 a.m. Long after morning training has concluded, Spawr likes to make one more pass through the stable, armed Among the top horses Bill Spawr has saddled over the years are: Exchange (above), winner of three Grade 1 races in 1993 and 1994; Bordonaro (right), a Grade 1 winner in 2006; Ismene (far right), the 2011 California Champion 2-YearOld Female; and Amazombie (below), a multiple Grade 1 winner in 2011 and 2012.
with a bucket of carrots. He goes stallby-stall, dropping generous portions into buckets and onto hay, looking to see who has finished their late-morning meals. One juvenile seemed to be figuring out the routine on a Saturday morning in July. “Hey, you ate them today,” Spawr said. “If you stay in this barn, you better eat carrots or you better leave. Some of the new ones are going to have to learn.” The colt’s staying. He’ll figure out the routine, one that has been proven to work. Steve Andersen is the Southern California correspondent for Daily Racing Form.
OAKTREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Annual poker tournament one of unique fundraising concepts initiated by CARMA to assist retired racehorses BY EMILY SHIELDS
he California Retirement Management Account, better known as CARMA, has continued to make strides in its fight against the plight of homeless ex-racehorses since its inception in 2008. The charitable 501(c)(3) organization, which was formed to manage and distribute funds to qualified equine retirement programs, has helped numerous California Thoroughbreds who require care and retraining after their racing careers have ended. By handling donations and a non-obligatory 0.3% deduction from purses, CARMA helps fund retirement farms and care programs. CARMA recently enjoyed success at their fifth annual charity poker tournament. Dubbed ���Poker in Paradise - A Night Under the Stars,” the tournament took place on July 21 at the Del Mar Hilton Hotel. For the first time, the tournament was held outdoors to take advantage of the spectacular weather in Del Mar. Like in past years, owners, trainers, jockeys and handicappers mingled at the popular event, which has been known to draw celebrities as well, such as Major League Baseball player Mark Loretta and poker professional Mike Mizrachi. www.oaktreeracing.com
“I’ve been playing since its inception (and) it’s fun, fun, fun,” said Southern California racehorse trainer and Television Games Network analyst Nick Hines. “More importantly, it’s for a good cause. There are no losers; we are all winners for contributing.” CARMA Chair Madeline Auerbach, one of the organization’s spearheads along with Executive Director Lucinda Mandella, noted that the feeling of community is one of the most important aspects of the poker tournament. “It’s about more than just the money,” Auerbach said. “It’s communal; everyone gets together to form a sense of camaraderie. We all have our own agendas, so it’s healthy for the
“We all have our own agendas, so it’s healthy for the industry to come together and to take care of those horses that might otherwise be falling through the cracks.” – Madeline Auerbach
Poker professional Mike Mizrachi (second from left) at the CARMA Cares “Poker in Paradise A Night Under the Stars” fundraising event in Del Mar on July 21, 2012. PADDOCK 2012
CARMA’s fifth annual fundraiser at the Del Mar Hilton attracted a large crowd of celebrities and racing personalities.
CARMA GRANTS 2008: More than $150,000 to seven Thoroughbred retirement facilities for 177 Thoroughbreds 2009: More than $260,000 to 12 Thoroughbred retirement facilities for 264 Thoroughbreds
CARMA Chair Madeline Auerbach (left) and Executive Director Lucinda Mandella.
These funds were used for the care of Thoroughbreds who participated in California races at some point in their careers.
industry to come together and to take care of those horses that might otherwise be falling through the cracks.” This year, the event featured an added twist as it tied into the Breeders’ Cup Celebrity Poker Invitational, a poker tournament that debuted in 2011. It will be held in the days leading up to the 2012 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on November 2-3. “The last table standing in our tournament will automatically be a part of Breeders’ Cup’s contest,” Auerbach explained. “The proceeds from their tournament will go to CARMA. We are really excited about this cooperation with Breeders’ Cup.” That isn’t the only new concept derived by CARMA this year. During the upcoming autumn meet at Santa Anita, the organization is hoping to host a horse show featuring off-the-track Thoroughbreds. “We want to go along with the national effort to try and make people aware that Thoroughbreds are great show horses,” Auerbach explained. “When Thoroughbreds got too pricey, a lot of competitive riders moved over to warmbloods. Now there has been a turnover in that industry, and the warmbloods are more expensive while the Thoroughbreds are more available. We are hoping to have a show on the infield at Santa Anita show-casing Thoroughbreds in the show ring.” While other states scramble to set up a similar organization, hundreds of California horses have already been helped by CARMA’s innovative presence. To qualify for a grant from CARMA, a rescue group must be an IRSapproved 501(c)(3) charity, and must facilitate horses who have started in a race in the Golden State at least once. Grants are allocated annually in December, but the application process begins during the summer. During the fall months, CARMA representatives visit the rescue sites. Organizations must reapply for their grants each year to assure continued exceptional care of the horses. To make a tax-deductible donation to CARMA, please call (626) 574-6622 or visit their website at www.carma4horses.org. Emily Shields is a freelance writer for California Thoroughbred and researcher for Television Games Network (TVG).
OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Created in 2000, the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation has distributed grants from its scholarship fund to almost 300 students BY MARCIE HEACOX n 1998, the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT) created a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to enhance backstretch employees’ quality of life. Trainer and past CTT President Edwin J. Gregson spearheaded the foundation’s creation, and it was renamed in his honor in 2000. The Gregson Foundation’s 13-member board of directors includes President Jenine Sahadi, Chief Financial Officer F. Jack Liebau, Jr.,
An annual fundraising dinner is the primary source of funds for the foundation. Each year, an individual or group is honored for their contributions to racing. Last year’s honoree was the Oak Tree Racing Association, the foundation’s largest single supporter. The Gregson Foundation’s most influential program has been the scholarship fund, established with the hope it “will be instrumental in cultivating individuals who will serve as positive
Secretary Angie Carmona and board members Jim Cassidy, Eddie Delahoussaye, Gail Gregson, Ed Halpern, Leigh Ann Howard, Sarah Kelly, Beverly Lewis, Pat Millington, Andrew Richards and Samantha Siegel.
contributors to society.” Since grants were first distributed in 2001, 298 different students have received financial aid. Applicants or their parent(s) must have worked a minimum of five years in a position “directly
Edwin J. Gregson Foundation Scholarship recipients Marisol Barrera, Liliana Serrano, Robert J. Cisneros, Ruth Cayetano, Ivana Morfin and Daniel Innocente (left to right) with the non-profit organization’s president, Jenine Sahadi, at its annual dinner in April 2008.
Sarah Panian is pursuing a master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology to go with her bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology.
relating to the physical care of horses at California Thoroughbred racetracks or approved auxiliary stable areas.” Students must already be accepted or enrolled in a degree or certificate program and fulfill multiple requirements. A committee appointed by the Gregson Foundation board chooses which applicants receive a scholarship and recommends an amount for each award. Carmona said most trainers aren’t aware of what their employees’ children are accomplishing until the foundation shines the spotlight through grants. “Many are so happy to see promise showing,” Carmona said. “(The students will) do better and bring their family with them.” Two of the most promising recipients of Gregson Foundation grants are Daniel Innocente and Sarah Panian. Innocente attended Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture in 2010. He’s already worked on projects for several Los Angeles-area architecture firms, including the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum to be built in Abu Dhabi.
Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture, Daniel Innocente has worked on projects for several Los Angeles-area architecture firms. Innocente’s father, Daniel Innocente Sr., has been an exercise rider for three decades. “I don't think he will ever stop doing it,” the younger Innocente said. “He really loves what he does.” Innocente appears to have inherited a passion for his work. He said he chose architecture because it combines several interesting disciplines. “It allowed me to analyze and synthesize almost anything,” Innocente said. “Architecture really absorbs everything.” Innocente is currently working on two architectural competitions as he continues his profession, and aims to travel the world. “It would allow me
to absorb more culture, experiences, and hopefully open up opportunities to take my work beyond where I have taken it up until now,” he said. Panian graduated from University of California, Berkeley in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology. She’s now pursuing a master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology at Northwestern University in Illinois and expects to graduate in 2014.
Her mother, Mary Panian, worked as an exercise rider before her current occupation as an assistant for trainer Greg James. Sarah’s older siblings, Kathryn and Michael, and younger brother, Kevin, also received grants from the foundation and are doing “very well.” Panian said growing up watching Kevin’s communication skills improve with the help of speech-language pathologists was the impetus for her desire to learn more about the field. “I remember how important that was, and I hope to be able to help others just as much,” Panian said. She aspires to provide services to low-income communities and eventually open her own practice to aid autistic children. She said her proudest achievements are entering graduate school and writing a novel, and the Gregson Foundation grant gave her that opportunity. In addition to financial aid, Panian said the foundation’s personal touch has motivated her to succeed. “There are few organizations that communicate on a first-name basis with their recipients and ask for updates like the Gregson Foundation does,” Panian said. “They take a special interest in their recipients, and that support has encouraged me to continue my education.” Marcie Heacox is a Southern California native who works as a freelance photographer, writer and artist.
OAK TREE RACING ASSOCIATION
A LOOK ATTHE PEOPLE, HORSES, AND PROJECTSTHAT MAKETHE OAKTREE RACING ASSOCIATION UNIQUE
BY RUDI GROOTHEDDE
Oak Tree Stakes Winner Remains Perfect at Goodwood egal Realm (GB), ridden for the first time by three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore, became a dual Group 3 winner from the only two career starts she has now made at Goodwood Racecourse in the south of England when she won the $83,928 Oak Tree Stakes on August 3, 2012. Established as the New Stand Stakes in 1980, to mark the opening of the new March Grandstand by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the seven-furlong race for fillies and mares, 3-year-old and up, then commemorated the nuptials of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana when contested as the Royal Wedding Day Stakes on July 29, 1981. The prestigious event was renamed the following year in recognition of the Oak Tree Racing Association, which reciprocated the gesture with the Goodwood Handicap/Stakes at Santa Anita Park from 1982 to 2009 and in 2011, and the Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2010. This year’s edition of the Oak Tree Stakes attracted a final field of six sophomores and eight older fillies and mares and the eventual winner started from stall nine as the fifth wagering choice at odds of 10-1. With the race favorite Gamilati (GB) never a factor, Regal Realm jumped well and settled in ninth place both through the race’s only turn and midway down the stretch before unleashing her winning late charge. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, who missed both the race and winner’s circle presentation because his car broke down, she relegated two 16-1 longshots to the minor placings while
English author Jilly Cooper and three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore.
posting a winning time of 1:26.50. Four-year-old Sunday Nectar (Ire), a listed winner in Italy in her previous start, was the runner-up by three quarters of a length with 3-year-old Appealing (Ire) finishing a further head back in third. A homebred for Cheveley Park Stud, the residence of her sire Medicean (GB), Regal Realm also won Goodwood’s $65,464 Whiteley Clinic Prestige Stakes at seven furlongs in August 2011. The 3-year-old daughter of the winning Fantastic Light mare Regal Riband, she now boasts a record of three wins, a second and earnings of $116,452 from seven trips to post.
Regal Realm (GB), trained by Jeremy Noseda, won the 2012 Oak Tree Stakes (G3) at Goodwood in England.
Oak Tree Unveils its Newly Redesigned Website n August 2012, the Oak Tree Racing Association unveiled its newly redesigned website at www.oaktreeracing.com. With new menus and added
features that allow for easier navigation, the user-friendly site guarantees a timely and accurate presentation of the latest horse racing news.
John Harris Receives Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award irst presented in 2004, the Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award recogifornia, Davis, he has served as a steward of The Jockey Club, nizes those who have served the sport of horse racing with director of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, president integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, chairdistinction, and this year’s deserved recipient is John Harris. man of the California Horse Racing Board and on the board of A native of Fresno, 69-year-old Harris is the owner, directors of the Breeders’ Cup, Grayson-Jockey Club Research, chairman and chief executive officer UC Davis Center for Equine Health, of Harris Farms Inc., a 20,000-acre Race Track Chaplaincy of America, agricultural and cattle ranch in the California Cattleman’s Association Golden State’s San Joaquin Valley, that and Pacific Legal Foundation. celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Laffit Pincay, Jr., the Hall of Fame Established in the 1960s, its Horse jockey who is the all-time leader at Division comprises 600 acres and was the Oak Tree Racing Association California’s leading breeder of 2010. meets with 671 victories, presented Tiznow, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Harris with his award at Betfair HolClassic (G1) winner and 2000 Eclipse lywood Park on July 7, 2012. Two Horse of the Year, was raised at Harris years ago, Pincay bestowed the same Farms, while Harris boasts an impreshonor on Oak Tree, where he won sive résumé of his own. seven riding titles from 1969 Laffit Pincay, Jr. (left) with John and Carole Harris. A graduate of the University of Calthrough 2002.
Rowan Fellowship Awarded to Tiffany Sarrafian
he latest recipient of the Louis R. Rowan Fellowship, established by the California Thoroughbred Foundation (CTF) in memory of this prominent horseman who was a founder of both that organization and the Oak Tree Racing Association, is Tiffany L. Sarrafian, DVM. Sponsored annually by the CTF, the fellowship provides a cash award for a graduate veterinarian pursuing a Ph.D. in equine-related medical science at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Sarrafian, who was issued the fellowship stipend in January 2012, completed an equine surgical residency in 2011, and is now pursuing her Ph.D. as a member of the Comparative Pathology Graduate Group investigating treatment of musculoskeletal injuries in the J.D. Wheat Veterinary Orthopedic Research Laboratory on the Davis campus. Her work there has included completion of a retrospective study that identified the major musculoskeletal causes of death in Quarter Horse racehorses in California over an 18-year 48
period, and the development of a non-terminal model of bone healing in the mandible of horses designed for evaluating the efficacy of regenerative methods of fracture repair, such as stem cells. She is currently studying ways to enhance the regeneration of muscles following injury using a rodent model. Sarrafian earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine at Colorado State University (CSU) in 2005, and gained experience through externships at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky, Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital in Florida and Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in California during veterinary school. She then completed an internship at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Virginia and worked as a fellow in the Comparative Orthopedics Tiffany Sarrafian Laboratory at CSU. OAKTREE RACING ASSOCIATION
Inaugural Scoop Vessels Award Presented to Oak Tree n February 13, 2012, the Oak Tree Racing Association became the first recipient of the annual Frank “Scoop” Vessels Award of Merit that was established by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association (CTBA) to honor its past president of 2006 and 2007 who died unexpectedly two years ago.
Oak Tree’s Executive Vice President Sherwood Chillingworth (right) accepts the “Scoop” Vessels Award of Merit from CTBA Vice President Pete Parrella.
Sherwood “Chilly” Chillingworth, a vice president of Oak Tree, accepted the commemorative plaque from CTBA Vice President Pete Parrella during the not-for-profit group’s Annual Awards Dinner celebrating the California-bred champions of 2011. Also in attendance at The Westin Pasadena hotel were several other members of Oak Tree’s Board of Directors, including its president, John Barr, also a board member and the treasurer of the CTBA. Oak Tree was recognized for the magnanimous contributions that it has made to the local Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry since its creation by Clement L. Hirsch, Louis R. Rowan and Dr. Jack Robbins in 1969, including more than $30 million in charitable contributions to many horse racing causes. It was also lauded for conducting an annual fall meet at Santa Anita Park from 1969 through 2009, which included its successful hosting of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008 and 2009. A tireless advocate for all participants in the “Sport of Kings,” Scoop Vessels died at the age of 58 when the light aircraft that he was piloting crashed in Oregon during August 2010. The founder of Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, he was a past president of the American Quarter Horse Association and had been inducted into its Hall of Fame earlier that year.
Oak Tree Now Featured on Del Mar Stakes Program fter hosting 41 annual fall race meets at Santa Anita Park from 1969 to 2009, and then a single stand at Hollywood Park in 2010, the not-for-profit Oak Tree Racing Association’s 44th year of operation now features a new association with the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club through a trio of stakes races being held during the seaside track’s 75th anniversary meeting from July 18 to September 5 this year. With Oak Tree’s blessing, Del Mar’s Palomar Handicap (G2), contested in 1945, 1952 and then for 57 years from 1955 to 2011, has been renamed the Yellow Ribbon Handicap, a race that marked 35 editions as the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (G1) from 1977 to 2011. This year’s renewal will be held as a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares, 3-year-old and up, with a guaranteed purse of $250,000 on September 3. Furthermore, the inaugural editions of the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf and Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf, new 2-year-old contests each run at a mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course with a guaranteed purse of $100,000—including partial funding from Oak Tree—are included among the 33 “advertised” and 10 “overnight” stakes races which make up a robust summer stakes schedule at Del Mar, which is offering $7,775,000 in purse money.
Meant as stepping stones for the Breeders’ Cup juvenile grass races being contested at Santa Anita this November, the fillies’ event will be held on the same Labor Day program as the Yellow Ribbon and the Juvenile Turf will be contested on Del Mar’s closing day.
Kilijaro (Ire) (above) and Tranquility Lake (below) were the only winners of both Del Mar’s Palomar Handicap and Santa Anita’s Yellow Ribbon Stakes from 1977 to 2011.
Charitable Foundation Contributions Consolidated by Oak Tree ow that the Oak Tree Racing Association has been without a horse racing meet in California since fall 2010, when it hosted one at Hollywood Park after being based at Santa Anita Park for the previous 41 years, the not-for-profit organization has had to consolidate its annual AMERICAN HORSE donations down to a select COUNCIL group of six recipients. Through its private Oak Tree Charitable Foundation and the group’s original Oak Tree Foundation that was in place from 1969 to 1994, it has contributed more than $30 million to numerous worthy charitable and civic institutions. The current recipients are the: American Horse Council, the national association representing all segments of the horse racing industry in Washington, D.C.; California Thoroughbred Horse-
men’s Foundation, a self-administered charitable program dedicated to assisting financially needy backstretch workers and their primary dependents; Edwin J. Gregson Foundation, a group which develops programs to benefit and enhance the quality of life of California’s backstretch workers and their families; Racing Medication & Testing Consortium, a national organization committed to tackling issues relating to the medication and post-race testing of Race Track Industry Program, a curriculum that offers students a broad-based education with an emphasis on the pari-mutuel racing industry; and Winners Foundation, an organization established to provide information, support and referral sources to employees and family members of the California horse racing community.
Oak Tree Breeders’ Cup Winner Cardmania Euthanized at 26 ardmania, winner of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup and Germany before returning for the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita Park during that Arcadia Sprint. Despite an unplaced effort there and 12 subsequent track’s 1993 Oak Tree Racing Association meet, was trips to post without a win, including a trip to Hong Kong, euthanized aged 26 at the United Pegasus FoundaCardmania then put together an impressive trio of tion—a non-profit rescue and retirement charity victories. for Thoroughbreds in Tehachapi, California—on He then won the Ancient Title Breeders’ January 2, 2012, following an illness. Cup Handicap (G3) at Oak Tree on October 17, Helen Meredith, whose husband Derek 1993, just 19 days prior to posting the biggest trained the gelded son of Cox’s Ridge, told win of his career. Sent to post in the 14The Blood-Horse, “He was a local fan fastrong Sprint field as the 5-1 second choice vorite and was even ridden in the Rose in the wagering to eventual 11th-placed Parade many, many years ago. He was a finisher Birdonthewire, Cardmania came ranch favorite and will be missed by all from as far back as 10th place to win by a our staff and volunteers.” neck over the frontrunner Meafara in Bred by Delta Thoroughbreds Inc. 1:08.76 with Eddie Delahoussaye in the and foaled in Kentucky on February 8, irons. 1986, Cardmania was the first foal out of Following a two-month break, the the 1981 J. O. Tobin mare l’Orangerie, a 1993 Eclipse Champion Sprinter’s final multiple stakes winner in France during lifetime win came in the Grade 2 San Carlos 1984. Not surprisingly, he started his racing Handicap on January 8, 1994, after which he career in that country before coming to the made nine more starts, including a third-place United States in 1991, after a victory in Italy’s finish in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. After Cardmania Group 3 Premio Omenoni. Cardmania made his 76th and final start in April of (1986-2012) After two Grade 3 wins when saddled by Derek Mered1995, his record stood at 16 wins, 12 seconds, 20 thirds and ith, Cardmania made three unsuccessful starts in England $1,503,780 in earnings for owner Jean Couvercelle.
OAKTREE RACING ASSOCIATION
o our loyal readers, as well as those of you who are receiving our annual Paddock magazine for the first time, we welcome you all to our publication’s 31st edition. Your interest in Paddock denotes you are a person who cares about the horse racing industry and deserve to be kept abreast of matters affecting horse racing – old and new. We are reasonably certain that a large percentage of Paddock readers know that in 2010, the Oak Tree Racing Association was not granted racing dates for the first time in 43 years as a result of Santa Anita Park cancelling our lease, and of course we were extraordinarily disappointed. It was the decision of the Oak Tree board that we are determined to return to racing in Southern California as soon as possible. Oak Tree has brought to California outstanding racing including five Breeders’ Cups, and has given tens of millions of dollars in support of charitable institutions and a myriad of other horse-related organizations. Many people working in the industry have benefited from the services of the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, Winners’ Foundation, jockey-oriented groups and medical research that helps horses and, more recently, the horse-rescue organizations. Oak Tree has been low-key in making these gifts and perhaps that is our error in not seeking credit for these contributions. Finally, we believe Oak Tree deserves to return to the Southern California schedule. We are not just standing idle, hoping to return; we are determined to return. In this effort, we propose working with the California Horse Racing Board and other industry bodies to which some of you belong. If you believe in Oak Tree’s value to all elements of our industry, we would appreciate your support in succeeding in this process. We thank you for whatever advice you can provide.
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