Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Trainer Snapshot: Bruce Headley

One of California's native sons, Bruce Headley has been training Thoroughbreds in the Golden State for 50 years.

Two main things impressed me about trainer Bruce Headley. The first is the closeness of his family and the obvious time and effort they have put into building a life around a sport they love. Both of his children -- Gus and Karen -- are trainers. And Headley insists that his wife and lifelong sweetheart, Aase, is the "brains" of the operation.

The second thing is Headley's incredible memory and his connection to and respect for the great California trainers of the past under whose tutelage he learned his trade.

Trainer Bruce Headley
Headley was born in Baldwin Park on February 14, 1934 and grew up in Southern California when it was still a land of orange groves and dairy farms. He was introduced to racing at the age of six by an uncle who worked at Santa Anita, and he quickly fell in love with Thoroughbred horses, leaving home at 15 to live on a ranch and learn to ride racehorses.

When his weight caught up with his height and he realized he would be too big to continue as a jockey, he turned to training in 1959. But he transferred his knowledge and passion for riding to the jockeys he worked with and to his two children. Headley helped launch the riding careers of Eclipse Award winning apprentice jockeys Steve Valdez and Robyn Smith.

He trained Eclipse Award winning sprint champion Kona Gold, who at the end of his racing career served as Headley’s stable pony until his retirement to the Kentuky Horse Park. He also trained multiple graded stakes winners Got Koko, Kalookan Queen, Surf Cat , Variety Road, Bertrando, Silveyville, and Son of a Pistol, as well as a long roster of other graded stakes winners.

In this Trainer Snapshot video interview, Headley talks about his introduction to Thoroughbred racing, riding styles and how they have evolved, and what he loves about training horses.


Sally said...

Another amazing interview. Thank you Mary!

D.S. Williamson said...

What an awesome life Headley has had. Working in an industry that your whole family is involved in must have kept them all close. Great interview of a great individual. I've always been a believer that our elders tell the best stories and we can learn much from them.
D.S. Williamson

Sally said...

I got to thinking about all he said, and it seems the forward riding style with jockeys evolved around the same time as the forward seat in jumping. And agree with all D.S.W. said above.

Anonymous said...

Wow!What fantastic memories to see and hear Bruce again.

As I type, I still have my Headly, yellow saddle towel that I painted "I'd rather be riding races" with a depiction of Pincay on a racehorse as a Santa Anita automobile's hood ornament, hanging on the wall next to me.

Bruce was the first trainer to ever allow me "the hot walker aspiring to be a jockey back in 1976" to get on his horses in the shedrow of Santa Anita. Years later, in 1980 Bruce used me as a freelance exercise rider and use to tell me I "was a natural."

I use to babysit Gus too, and one time the little stinker saw me fall asleep, climbed up on a stool to unlock the front door and hiked down the beach to his aunt's house. Bruce came home, waking me up, and to this day I am so ashamed that I was such a bad babysitter. Wow, I sure am glad that the 70's were different then they are now, regarding the safety of children.

If you see Bruce again anytime soon, please tell him that Sandy Koster, who use to work for Roger Clapp and then freelanced for him, sends her regards! He can catch up on my status at www.in2books.blogspot.com or youtube.com/santafesandy or twitter.com/santafesandy or even Facebook.

Anonymous said...

my name is Robert Peruzzi and I broke a lot of colts Bruce after working for ellsworyh when I was sizxteen

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