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Friday, December 19, 2014

Shafter (California) Memories

by Peter Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor

If the audience isn't already tired of the many mentions of my time as Hall of Famer Joe O'Brien's administrator - I signed on for that at age 22! - here's a little more.
The main stable "wintered" in Shafter, California for some six, or more, months a year (hence the "winter" quotes), roughly October through April, and a highlight of that sizable stretch of time was our matinee barbeque and race day, a charity event held in conjunction with the local Lion's Club.
I mention all this since I recently found a program from the 1980 edition, along with (how unbelievably handy?) some photos from that day.
It was on a Sunday, Feb. 24, and we had a huge crowd at the farm. Some were racing industry people, but most were "regular" people from the community.
Guests included Pres Jenuine and Lloyd Arnold, our main owner Thurman Downing, most likely Charlie Armstrong, and maybe Jack Baugh.
I served as clerk of course ... code for a little of everything behind the scenes.
(I forget if Baugh attended in '79 or '80. Maybe it was both.)
We put on six races - okay, they were really training sets, but without pre-determined winners - plus a race for pacing ponies at five-eighths of a mile, once around the track.
FFA trotting mare Ima Lula was the day's star, as she was many times in her great career, and she won for driver Chan Bayless - Joe's stepson and Stan's brother - in 2:05.2, unofficially home in :30.1.
(Yeah, those times do sound pretty quaint today, don't they?)


Classified System on the Way Out?  - The classified system being used at the Meadowlands was supposed to be used for a year and then be evaluated.  As part of that process, the SBOANJ commissioned a survey regarding the use of the ABC system.  Based on the results of the survey, it looks like the classified system will be on the way out as most trainers who responded claimed the classified system was not working for them for various reasons.  The survey lists some of those reasons.

Vernon Downs on the Ropes - Earlier I had made comments which may have suggested Vernon Downs would be closing shortly.  Truth is it appears Jeff Gural will wait until the Tyre casino opens and evaluate the impact.  If Vernon can support itself, he would be willing to keep it open but if it loses money, it will be history.

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