Sunday, February 28, 2010

John and Betty Mabee had Connection to Early Caliente Racing

A guest post by David J. Beltran

The recent passing of Betty Mabee closed an era in Thoroughbred racing in California. Well known for their Golden Eagle Farm, John and Betty Mabee bred a long list of runners that have found a place in the hearts of many California racing fans. Although linked with their farm, they did not come into the game armed with what would eventually turn into one of racing’s formidable nurseries. Like many from their era who got into the racing game, the Mabees had a string of horses at Agua Caliente racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico.

Many Californians made the most of the affordable rates and the horsemen who worked at Caliente, and the one-mile oval was a safe dirt surface. The Mabees had a string trained by either Lawrence “Swede” Jenner or Cliff Clayton. Racing at Caliente afforded not only the Mabee family to be part of the game, but many others as well.

Upon reading of her passing, I quickly remembered having a photo of John and Betty Mabee in the winner’s circle one Sunday afternoon on the last weekend of July 1971. Little did they know that they had just won the last feature race at Caliente, for the track’s Grandstand and Clubhouse would be destroyed in a fire two days later.

It is memories of times like these that remind me the photo and memorabilia collection I have is really not mine… but it belongs to all that enjoy the races.

David J. Beltran and family wish to express our condolences to the Mabee family.

Photo: David Beltran collection.

David J. Beltran was born in Chula Vista and raised in San Diego and Tijuana. He has been attending the races since he was an infant, both at Caliente and the Southern California race tracks. Beltran is the author of the book The Agua Caliente Story (Eclipse Press 2004), a correspondent to Caballo, a racing magazine in Mexico, and a writer for the Argentine racing daily, Turf Diario. He recently published an article in HorsePlayer magazine covering betting on South American imports. Beltran also breeds Thoroughbreds and is a blood-stock agent specializing in Argentinean racing and breeding stock. He lives in Chula Vista with his wife, daughter, and two dogs. His previous posts explored the origins of the Big 'Cap, the Woolf Memorial, and the "5-10" wager at Caliente.

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