By Julie Sarno
One of the most revered individuals in Southern California racing lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Dr. Jack K. Robbins. Robbins, now 90, practiced veterinary medicine for more than half a century. He served for the last 11 years as president of the Oak Tree Racing Association, which began conducting the autumn race meet at Santa Anita in 1969.
In May, Robbins stepped down as president and assumed the position of chairman of the board of the Oak Tree Racing Association. He opted to spend more time with his wife, Maggie, who has been ill for several years. Robbins is the last of the original founding members of the Oak Tree Board of Directors. His tenure with Oak Tree included five runnings of the prestigious Breeders’ Cup.
“There has been no greater friend to California racing, and racing in general, than Dr. Jack Robbins and the Oak Tree Racing Association,” said well-known trainer Jenine Sahadi, who also serves as president of the Edwin Gregson Foundation which will honor the Oak Tree Racing Association on Aug. 8. “He has been a great supporter of mine and a dear friend and mentor. He brings out the best in all of us.”
Robbins has made his home in Rancho Santa Fe for the past 25 years. Robbins and his wife have four sons: Jay, Don, David and Tom. Jay is a trainer and best known for training Tiznow to back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Classic wins in 2000 and 2001, and a “Horse of the Year” title in 2000. Second son Don, an attorney, was president of Hollywood Park for years and now is executive vice president and legal counsel for Young’s Market. The next in line is David, also an attorney. Youngest son Tom is Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s executive vice president, racing/industry relations. During the race meet, he also serves as racing secretary.
A 1944 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robbins worked as a veterinarian all his life. His practice in Southern California included many of racing’s leading breeders, owners and trainers. Famous horses under his care in California included Citation, winner of the 1948 Triple Crown; Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Majestic Prince (based in California with trainer John Longden); and John Henry, twice “Horse of the Year” (1981 and 1984).
“I think Dad always hoped one of us would become a vet,” said Jay, 65, who currently has horses tabled at Del Mar and is considering the Del Mar Oaks as the next start for stakes-placed 3-year-old filly Dos Lunas later in the Del Mar meet. “Mom always told us to stay away from the racetrack. We didn’t listen.”
Asked what he admired most about his father, Jay said “I’d like to be able to emulate his honesty. Dad was honest to everyone he was around. He was very upright with the people he dealt with.”
The Robbins’ patriarch set an example his sons are following. He has devoted much time and energy to bettering thoroughbred racing. In addition to other contributions, he was a founding member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and was president in 1963, and was appointed a distinguished life member in 1980. Robbins has been honored by the National Turf Writers and the Thoroughbred Club of America. Son Tom is a member of the American Graded Stakes Committee, which issues grades to stakes races to provide owners and breeders a guide to the relative quality of thoroughbred horses.
Tom and his wife, Missy, live in the Carmel Valley area. As director of racing for Del Mar, Tom creates the schedule of races for Del Mar, seeking to appeal to the inventory of horses available, as well as to trainers, horse owners and the public.
The elder Robbins, as head of the Oak Tree Racing Association, will be honored by the Edwin Gregson Foundation at its Aug. 8 event at the Grand Del Mar. Tickets are $250 per person. For information, call Angie Carmona at 626-447-2339.