Photo: Hollywood Park
John Shear, a familiar face in the paddock at Betfair
Hollywood Park since 1962, will work his final day at the track Sunday.
Shear, who will turn 92 in January, isn’t completely
retiring from the sport he loves. He will be working the paddock when Santa
Anita, which is only three miles from the home he shares with wife Diane, begins
its Winter/Spring meet Dec. 26.
Severely injured in March of last year when he heroically
stepped into the path of a loose horse in the walking ring at Santa Anita to
protect a 6-year-old girl, Shear said he will miss Betfair Hollywood Park, but
plans on visiting often during the 2013 Spring/Summer season.
“Horses have always been my life and I’m going to miss the
people,’’ he said. “I love people and love to talk to them.
“I became friends with a lot of celebrities through the
years. Cary Grant used to seek me out every morning to have a conversation and
Howard Koch was a very good friend of mine.
“Plus all the jockeys and trainers. I remember how Bill
Shoemaker used to play what was called Racetrack Rummy. He would have rather
sat and played a game than ridden a horse.’’
Certain thoroughbreds that have excelled at Betfair
Hollywood Park also hold a special place in Shear’s memory. There are quite a
few, he said, but a couple came quickly to mind.
Zenyatta,’’ said Shear. “She was a very special mare and brought a lot of
excitement every time she ran. Native Diver won three consecutive Hollywood
Gold Cups (1965-67) and was a brilliant horse and his trainer (Buster
Millerick) was a friend of mine.’’
Eual Wyatt, Jr., Betfair Hollywood Park’s vice president and
general manager, said Shear will definitely be missed.
“The paddock won’t be the same without him,’’ he said. “He’s
been an extremely loyal and valuable employee and his love of horse racing is
obvious to anyone who knows him.’’