Trudy McCaffery, 62; horse breeder and owner worked to improve racing

Times Staff Writer

Trudy McCaffery, a prominent horse owner and breeder who was actively involved in horse racing in various other capacities, died Monday morning at her home near Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. She was 62.

McCaffery, along with former partner John Toffan, raced, among others, Santa Anita Derby and Pacific Classic winners Came Home and Free House; Mane Minister, who finished third in all three legs of the Triple Crown in 1991; A.P. Assay, Pacific Squall, Del Mar Dennis and grass stars Bien Bien and Bienamado.

She and Toffan also bred Round Pond, the surprise winner of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

“The sport of horse racing has lost a true friend and key participant,” said John Harris, a longtime owner-breeder and vice chairman of the California Horse Racing Board. “She bred and raced numerous top horses, and was very supportive of the California breeding industry.


“She was very active in efforts to improve things, serving tirelessly for the industry on the boards of many organizations. Her sense of humor, sparkling enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the game will be sorely missed.”

An accomplished equestrian in her youth, McCaffery served as a director of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Assn., Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Breeders’ Assn. and Oak Tree Racing Assn. She also was treasurer for Tranquility Farm, which sees to the care and adoption of retired racehorses.

In 1999, McCaffery founded Kids to the Cup, a nonprofit, charitable organization dedicated to attracting, developing and educating racing fans ages 8 to 16 through programs that provide direct access to the sport’s major events and participants, including owners, trainers, jockeys and horses.

McCaffery started that organization after being contacted by a young fan who wanted to wish her luck with one of her horses. Kids to the Cup has since sent more than 1,200 youngsters to Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown races.

“It was the president of an online horse club, a junior horse racing fan, basically,” John DeSantis, who worked with Kids to the Cup, once was quoted as saying. “It really spoke to Trudy. She realized that there is this whole untapped reserve of young fans, looking for a way into the sport, and Trudy recognized that instantly.”

Because of her involvement with Kids to the Cup, McCaffery was given the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn.'s Commissioner’s Cup in 2002, awarded to an individual or organization for making “extraordinary contributions” to the association and the racing industry.

Born in Calgary, Canada, McCaffery is survived by her mother and three sisters. Her father, Fritz Hanson, who died in 1996, was a star for Winnipeg and Calgary in the Canadian Football League, playing on four Grey Cup winners.

A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at Santa Anita Race Track. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation, an organization that aids backstretch workers at the track. McCaffery was on the foundation’s board of directors.