Joe Johnson, Farm Manager at Deerwood, Colorful Person: Has Been in Racing for Forty Years Here and Abroad; His Experiences Very Interesting, Daily Racing Form, 1950-05-02


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Joe Johnson, Farm Manager At Deerwood, Colorful Person ■ ; 1 ; ■ Has Been in Racing for Fortyt Years Here and Abroad; His Experiences Very Interesting j By TRUMAN CURTIS LOS ANGELES, Calif., May 1. — It was a warm day. The road was almost deserted. When a car passed occasionally, the people inside stared as people in the country usually do. Further on there was a lake and more winding road, only now it was on the downgrade. The valley was straight ahead. And then the white fences hove into view. Behind painted posts mares pulled on short, green-stemmed grass while in other paddocks young colts and filly yearlings romped. It was a view filled with the peace of nature. We swung the car into the elm tree-lined driveway and pulled up in front of the barn used for broodmares 1 due to foal. There we found Joe Johnson, Deerwood Stock Farm manager, much as we remembered him — a round-faced, dark-complexioned, soft-spoken individual, past middle age and with an unmistakable affection for his work. He became a horseman, he told us, partly because even as a child hed had a way with horses, and partly because it , seemed such a nice, stimulating way to earn a living. "There have been times, though," he said, "when its been discouraging, both as trainer and farm manager. Especially so, as sometimes happens, when you see horses whom youve had a hand with from the day they were born, come back broken-down. I dont say that has happened here. But it has happened. Ask any farm man. And it will continue to occur. There are t many causes. The trainer is not, by any means, always responsible — I Know. I trained many horses here and in foreign countries for 40 years." Plenty of Deer Around Johnson paused, as though expecting a query. We waited. "Once an amateur has , had a shot at a horse, you might as well throw in the sponge," Joe said with good-natured contempt. "Its like a plumber taking out a mans appendix." This bit of opinion and philosophy having been dealt out, and inspection made of .the first foal of the season, a bay filly of Castel Fusano, from the Manna mare Pumpernickel, we went on down the farm road, Joe pointing . out, as we walked, a herd of deer unconcerned and grazing on a hillside, and the many trees dotting the property. "Thats why the place is called Deerwood — plenty of deer around, gosh knows how many, and trees. Oak, walnut, eucalyptus, pine and so forth. "You see," he continued, "this isnt a theory farm, a place where accent is on nicks, patterns, crosses, etc. Mr. Dell-inger, the owner, has no desire to operate the establishment other than in the fashion it is run — as a homey place, you might say. The broodmare band — it hardly ever gets above 16 — is, by and large, made up of former fillies and mares who raced for Deerwood. Theres one in particular, in that paddock to your left— Novelette. She was a good winner for Deerwood, took down a couples of stakes, too. Well, anyway, as I was saying, the mares make up the broodmare band and thereby supply racing material. Right now weve got 12 home-breds at the races and six yearlings here at the farm. Later on, if everything goes all right, well have a nice crop of foals. Then, next year, well probably have a few of the mares now at .the races retired for breeding purposes and, in turn, well "retire" — forego breeding — a few of the aging individuals in the home broodmare band. In that way the cycle is kept going." Naishapur Now 24 By this time we were at the big barn, a brick structure, tucked in between trees and erected about 40 years ago. It has 20 stalls. •In one of them was the old fellow himself, Naishapur, the nurserys stallion. Now 24 years of age, the son of Omar Khayyam was, as a three-year-old, among the top performers of 1929. At that time winter racing was continuing to grow, and there was a good deal of money to be won in three-year-old events before the spring and summer season began. Naishapur, then campaigning for the Wilshire Stable, got the richest of these when he captured the 0,100 valued Tijuana Derby. Voltear was second. Xylophone third, and there was not much else in the field except Zaca-[ weista, who was left at the post. Later on, at Churchill Downs, Naishapur finished second to Clyde Van Dusen in the wettest Derby on record and with 21 horses in the field. Again, in the American Derby, a 0,000-added race, he was second, this time to F. M. Grabners Windy City, whom Jake Lowenstein trained. Joe Johnson has a special "place" in his j memoirs for Naishapur. He saw him run ; and profited thereby. He also saw, and trained, too, some real fair horseflesh. He - took Novelty to South America, when that , 1910 Futurity winner was sold by the "David - Harum" of the turf, John E. Madden, to s Machado of Brazil. Following his return to r this country, Joe went back to South Amer-r ica — the hard way — via Europe. On the t continent, he and "Boots" Durnell hooked up together for an invasion of Roumania. The Balkans were very much as they are today. So neither Johnson nor Durnell stayed very long. Back in Paris — this was in the days of Nash Turner, Gene Leigh, the Reiff brothers, Fred Shields, Milt Henry and others — Joe and the incomparable Winnie OConnor decided to "cut a melon" in Belgium. They took a horse by the name of Sanctus, an American-bred son of St. Leonard, to Ostend, the famed seashore resort, and, although most of his riding had been confined to the flat, OConnor, on this occasion, had no qualms about riding over jumps. OConnor was that kind of a rider. Flat or steeplechase made no difference to him. For the steeplechase he simply let himself, shall we say, expand. When he rode flat, he, of course, often had to reduce. Anyway, on that afternoon at Ostend, Winnie rode superbly. Sanctus triumphed with ease. The distance— four and one-half miles and obstacles — almost everything imaginable, as in the case of the Liverpool Grand National, except that the jumps at Ostend were not so high. Incidentally, after winning with Sanctus, OConnor went to Deauville, France, and rode over the flat in the Deauville Handicap, riding Bas Point, acknowledged the best mare of her year. After the race, OConnor, always clowning, hired a man and his wheelbarrow to cart him to the railroad station, where he took a train back to Paris. For a while Joe shuttled back and forth between Paris and South America. He made the trip in 1913, when times were tense, and again in 1917, during the first World War. Went to South America After the war years, he "came home" to the United States. - After a spell in this country, he went to Central and South America once more, where he got a bargain buy, a French-bred named Consul, a stakes performer in France before importation and a very capable sort. His accomplishments attest to that, for he raced, with 138 pounds on his back, one and one-half miles on a half-mile track, in 2:37, a fine effort. Johnson shipped Consul to New York along about 1926, before the arrival of Copi-apo and other horses from the Latin countries. An injury to Consul forced his retirement. Back in the "States" Joe enjoyed considerable success in the East, and Cuba in the winter time, at a period when the Caribbean islands position in racing was far superior to that held today. That was in the era of "Big Jim" Parsons, whose Seths Hope was winning races right and-left, Lloyd Gentry, Clyde Van Dusen, George Alexandra, H. H. "Ham" Cotton and others. Joe had a large string of horses — he maintained a public stable — and it included a fair sort named Euphrates, who tangled a few times with Seths Hope. On one occasion the latter carried 103 pounds and Euphrates 128. The years of traveling, Europe, near-Asia, South America, Africa arid way stations, began to pall on Joe in the late thirties and he decided to return home — to California. The best horses he conditioned on the West Coast were Lady Bosn and Marica. That Middle Age Longing As Joe tells it, "When a man gets past middle age he wants to see his native land. I was born not far from the present Santa Anita — at El Monte. As a youngster my brothers and I went to the old Mission for a two-out-of-three heat race. You see, us farmer boys had a little spotted horse who -could really run. Well, we matched him with some slickers for what was then a lot of money, 00. Being well aware that our horse could not take all three, we concentrated on the first heat — bet our money on „ the first heat while the slickers turned their heads to hide the grins — and at the •lap and tap I heel-n-toed that little horse for all I was worth. The other jock didnt try to hold the pace. Guess he figured I was crazy to use up my horse at the very first. We won all right, pocketed a nice profit on our wagers for that first heat, but I got beat too far to measure in the other two tests. With that stake I started out, but it wasnt long before I had to go to work. Punched cattle. Later I went to work for Lucky Baldwin and then gravitated east. Took me 30 years to get back across the mountains." We took another look around the farm, inspected the mares Novelette, Oblivious, Pumpernickel, Dusty Rose, Dark Palatine, Persian Heels, Real High, Beau Pala, Arizona Rose, Lady Sweepster, Carbins Bell, Sabine Rose, Dark Belito, Dawn Siren, Dark Fire and Caprice — but Joe Johnson is the most interesting facet of the farm.

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