Training Success Comes in a Flash for McArthur
Forgive Donna McArthur if she can’t find time to take a deep breath and recount all she has accomplished the past year. She’s just too busy doing so well.
McArthur’s meteoric rise through the ranks of the country’s quarter horse trainers has been stunning.
* She ranks first in the nation in earnings among trainers, having garnered $1,584,463 in 244 starts.
* McArthur will send out the two top contenders--This Snow Is Royal and Corona Cash--in the $1.2-million Los Alamitos Million Futurity on Saturday.
* She also trains one of the favorites--defending race champion Dashing Folly--in the Champion of Champions on Sunday. * McArthur became the first woman trainer to have a horse--Dashing Folly in 1996--be named world champion.
McArthur was no stranger to the industry when she began training horses full time only two years ago. Her husband James, a trainer, won the Champion of Champions in 1975 at Los Alamitos with world champion Easy Date. Her brother-in-law, Oscar McArthur, until divesting most of his interests last fall, was a longtime quarter horse owner and owned several of the nation’s best stock under the name of Jaramar Ltd., a Texas real estate conglomerate that tops the quarter horse industry with $1,226,896 in earnings so far this year.
Oscar and James bankrolled Donna’s start in the business and she hasn’t let them down. After working for years alongside her husband at tracks in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, McArthur decided to branch out and found her way to California in 1995.
“My husband doesn’t like night racing,” she said. “When [Los Alamitos Race Course majority owner] Edward Allred guaranteed a million dollars for the Los Alamitos Million, well, we had a few horses . . . back home and I thought I’d bring a few out here and try it.”
Her stock rose dramatically during the 1996 meet at Los Alamitos. Most notably, she was credited with salvaging the racing career of Dashing Folly after a poor maiden season during which the filly ran in only three races and never finished better than fourth. Dashing Folly won all 10 of her starts last season and has continued to be one of the most impressive horses at the track.
“It’s been an incredible year,” McArthur said. “Unbelievable. I can’t complain.”
James and Donna McArthur have a residence in Anaheim during the Los Alamitos meet, but return to their native Texas in the off-season. Donna says she spends most of her time alone on the West Coast, while James prefers day racing at several Southwestern tracks.
“A person has to make a lot of sacrifices, be dedicated and put your time in,” she said. “I’m here all the time because people pay me to train their horses. They want to see me, not someone else.”
The McArthurs have good horse sense when it comes to recognizing a potential champion, those who know them say.
“I’ve never ridden a horse as fast as This Snow Is Royal,” jockey Sam Thompson said.
Part-owner Charlie Patterson agreed: “I don’t think there’s a 2-year-old that can outrun This Snow Is Royal.”
The Million could come down to a battle between horses trained by pioneering female trainers.
While McArthur’s 2-year-olds are considered the favorites, the filly Gonna Make Sum Noise posted the second-best time in trials. Gonna Make Sum Noise is trained by Connie Hall, who began training horses 20 years ago when it wasn’t fashionable for women to do so.
Clovis horse owner and trainer Spencer Childers gambled and lost last week when he chose not to accept an invitation to run Uncas in the Champion of Champions. Instead, he entered the 3-year-old gelding in the trials of the $113,000 Southern California Derby. Uncas failed to qualify for tonight’s Derby final, finishing fifth in his heat on a very sloppy track.
Childers said he didn’t think Uncas was up to running against the kind of competition entered in the Champion of Champions. Uncas came in having won seven of 11 1997 starts.
Spencer Childers wasn’t the only owner crying after the Southern California Derby trails. Top horses that failed to qualify included Breeders Derby winner Special Mongoose, La Primera Del Ano Derby runner-up Feminista, three-time Los Alamitos Derby finalist Las Alamitos and Los Alamitos Derby finalist Tylers First Down and recent stakes winner Artesias First Down. . . . Donna McArthur-trained Corona Cash has won seven consecutive starts.