By Kelley Carlson
A racehorse owner is bringing one of the sport’s behind-the-scenes issues into the spotlight.
Rancho Santa Fe resident Jeff DeHaven will host the first “Jockey for a Cause” on July 18 at his home to help raise money for The Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation.
“There are some 2,000 jockeys in the United States, and they have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world,” DeHaven said. “Many of them have to work without adequate health insurance, life insurance or retirement funds, which puts a severe hardship on them and their families. I want this event to help make their lives easier.”
He noted that the charities he is supporting are currently helping 56 riders, the majority of them in wheelchairs and some permanently disabled. They receive $300 to $1,000 a month from the organizations — which doesn’t seem to make sense in an industry that generates billions, DeHaven indicated.
“These guys work 24/7; they shouldn’t be struggling that much,” he said. “That’s why I’m doing the party.”
The urgency to help these riders was highlighted last week when 33-year-old jockey Jorge Herrera was thrown from his mount and killed at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton.
At least 700 people are expected to attend the fundraiser, which starts at 6 p.m., including several A-list celebrities — whose identities are being kept under wraps — along with the elite of thoroughbred racing and well-known professional athletes from various sports, according to DeHaven.
Furthermore, he is asking everyone who has ever made a bet or watched a race to attend the event and support the riders.
“As an owner, I’m basically making an attempt to bring all of the industry (trainers, owners, jockeys, veterinarians, etc.) together at one event and recognize all of our responsibilities, and to make sure these people and their families are taken care of when they need us,” he said.
The 54-year-old DeHaven has been involved in racing on and off since 1987. His friend Brian Boudreau, owner of thoroughbred breeding facility Malibu Valley Farms in Calabasas, was instrumental in introducing him to the sport. The very first starter that they owned together, Seismic Wave, was third in a Group 2 event in England.
“I fell in love with the sport,” DeHaven said. “I feel absolutely blessed to be involved, and (to know) the people associated with it.”
At the track, his horses are easily recognizable to San Diegans — his stable’s silks feature the Chargers colors and logo. Born in Albany — near the Golden Gate Fields racetrack — DeHaven grew up in Northern California, where the Spanos family was prominent. He noted that the real estate developers, who were based in Stockton, did a lot for the community there, and when they bought the Chargers football team, DeHaven switched his allegiance from the Rams and became a Chargers fan.
He estimates that over the years, he has owned 50 to 60 racehorses, mostly by himself, and some in partnerships of two to three people. Among his most successful runners were Regal Thunder, winner of the 1999 Pat O’Brien Handicap and the eighth-place finisher in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint; Sayarshan, 1999 Golden Gate Handicap and Del Mar Handicap victor; Sicy d’Alsace, who won the San Clemente Handicap in 1998; and stakes runner True Religion. DeHaven also owned a percentage of Afleet, who finished third in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Sprint — the only time he ever owned a horse in syndication.
DeHaven said he prefers to breed and race his own horses. He has several mares at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Kentucky, including Accusation, dam of the stakes-placed Innocent Man; Eau de Vie, a daughter of Accusation; and Lacy Lady. His mare Latin Lashes is in layup at Jenny Craig’s Rancho Paseana in Rancho Santa Fe.
And the interest in breeding seems to be running in the family, as DeHaven’s 13-year-old daughter, Savannah, often makes suggestions on matings and helps name the foals.
To date, DeHaven said his most memorable moment in racing was when Regal Thunder won the Pat O’Brien. The gelding had been on a losing streak, and the public dismissed him at odds of 17-1 that day. But jockey Chris Antley had confidence in Regal Thunder. According to DeHaven, Antley said to him before the race, “I guarantee I won’t lose on this horse today.” It was a battle to the finish, and Regal Thunder prevailed by a nose over Christmas Boy.
But racing comes with its highs and lows: DeHaven’s biggest disappointment was the injury of Sayarshan, who bowed a tendon while on track for a start in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup.
Currently, DeHaven has four horses in training with Julio Canani — an unraced 2-year-old filly named Secret Motive; Prettypriceygirl, a 3-year-old filly DeHaven claimed at Belmont Park in New York; a 3-year-old gelding named Love to Barrett, who was claimed at Gulfstream Park in Florida; and Say Ow, an unraced 2-year-old colt named for the clothing line of DeHaven’s late friend, local football legend Junior Seau. DeHaven said 10 percent of Say Ow’s winnings will be donated to the Junior Seau Foundation.
In addition, DeHaven owns Innocent Man’s full sister, a yearling named Stunning Drama who was in a van and on her way to Rancho Paseana as of press time.
“She’s the best yearling I’ve ever had,” he said.
DeHaven indicated that he is looking forward to the upcoming Del Mar season, and is captivated by the seaside oval.
“There’s no track like it, with the ocean setting and the breeze blowing through there ... almost everyone has a different attitude,” he said.
When he’s not at the track, DeHaven spends time working for The Premae Co., purchasing life insurance policies from people seeking liquidity, and packaging and securitizing them in the marketplace. For the last six years, he has been assisting the Zion Baptist Church of South Central L.A. He structured a policy so churchgoers could afford to bury their loved ones, helped contribute money for scholarships, and assisted in the demolition of four crack houses.
DeHaven also spends time with his family in Rancho Santa Fe, where he has lived since 1988. He and his wife, Kim, whom he met in La Jolla, have four children. Along with Savannah, there is Chase, 15; Kenya, 9; and Danni, 6.
The Ranch is a place that DeHaven has always loved, and he enjoys the fact that it’s an “equestrian town.”
Because so many of the residents are interested in horses, DeHaven is hoping his “Jockey for a Cause” event is supported locally.
“Permanently disabled jockeys depend on the PDJF for financial assistance,” PDJF Executive Director Nancy LaSala said in a news release. “The PDJF was established to provide long-term assistance to jockeys who have suffered on-track catastrophic injuries. Since its inception in 2006, it has been, and continues to be, challenged to meet its financial goals to meet the day-to-day needs of these men and women. We have great hopes that ‘Jockey for a Cause’ will help provide security for our injured riders, and we are very appreciative to Jeff for his commitment to these athletes.”
“The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation helps not only jockeys, but many others in the industry in their time of need,” the organization’s executive director, Nancy Kelly, said in a news release. “Trainers, grooms, exercise riders, hot walkers, farm workers and front office personnel turn to us, and we want to be there to help. ‘Jockey for a Cause’ will help us help those valuable members of the industry.”
Tickets for the party cost $100 if bought in advance, or $200 if purchased the day of the event. Go to www.pdjf.org or www.tjcfoundation.org.
Guests who order tickets will meet at Horizon Christian Fellowship, 6365 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe, where they will be given a wristband and transported by bus to the DeHaven residence.
There will be a car service available for anyone who has had too much to drink, DeHaven said.
He added that he hopes this fundraiser becomes an annual event.
“It’s (horse racing) a very fragmented industry,” DeHaven said, and added that the medication issue is certainly not helping. “The public is being misled to a certain extent. Changes need to take place for the betterment of horses and the industry.”