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Mace Siegel dies at 86; stable owner and booster of California horse racing

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Mace Siegel, a prominent owner of thoroughbred racehorses who was considered a godfather of Southern California horse racing for his role as an advocate for the sport, has died. He was 86.

Siegel, who was also a leading developer of regional shopping centers, died Wednesday at his Beverly Hills home of complications related to old age, said his daughter, Samantha.

"Mace was a pillar in our industry," George Haines, president of Santa Anita Park said in a statement. "His compassion for the horses, horseman and fans was second to none."

With his wife, Jan, Siegel purchased his first racehorse in 1964 and named the filly Najecam, "Mace" and "Jan" combined and spelled backward. By 1976, he had the first of dozens of stakes winners.

The best-known was Declan's Moon, who went undefeated in 2004 in his debut season and received racing's Eclipse Award as the champion 2-year-old.

Other major race winners include Rail Trip, who took the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup in 2009, and Urbane, who won races in the mid-1990s in Florida, Maryland and Delaware, earning more than a million dollars for the Siegels.

"Mace was a very sage man, had a lot of wisdom and really, really understood the horse racing business," said Jack Owens, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, an organization that Siegel helped found in the early 1990s to help protect owners' interests. Similar groups later formed in other states.

"He wanted to do things for the sport to make it better for everyone," his daughter said, "not just on a state level but on a national level."

In the early 1980s, Siegel also founded Thoroughbred Owners Against Drugs to press for equine drug testing and other measures to ensure a fairer playing field.

"He spent a great deal of money bringing very, very good horses to the Southern California circuit from all over the country," Owens said. "He also gave back enormously to the industry, often through charitable contributions that he did not take credit for."

Beyond racing, Siegel's philanthropy included the City of Hope cancer center, where he pledged more than $1.5 million in 2008 to endow a professorship. His wife, who had cancer, died at 69 in 2002.

By the late 1980s, Siegel had given the reins of the family's Jay Em Ess Stable to his daughter.

"The game is a constant puzzle," Siegel once said. "But a satisfying one."

He was born Sept. 1, 1925, in Jersey City, N.J., and served in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, Siegel attended Columbia University, earning a bachelor's degree and a master's in business, according to a Breeders' Cup biography.

By 1962, he was a habitue of the races, as was his future wife, a big band singer he met on a blind date spent at New York's Aqueduct racetrack. They married three months later.

With Richard Cohen, Siegel founded a shopping-mall development company in 1964 in New York City. Combining their first names, they called it Macerich.

When the firm relocated to Santa Monica to oversee the rehabilitation of an outdated mall in Lakewood, Siegel also moved west, in 1976.

Macerich found a niche as a redeveloper of shopping centers, including Santa Monica Place, which it acquired in 1999 and finished overhauling last year. Siegel retired from the company in 2008.

His affinity for wordplay was reflected in a daily ritual — doing the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink — and in the names he invented for his horses. They included Eighty Below Zero, a son of It's Freezing and Alps, and Hedonist, a daughter of Alydeed and Play All Day.

In addition to his daughter, Samantha, of Beverly Hills, Siegel is survived by his son, Evan, of Simi Valley, and a granddaughter.

Services will be at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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