Despite ongoing economic gloom that has impacted businesses nationwide, including horse racing in the Golden State, Barry Abrams had much to be thankful for on the recent Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and not just because he won Saturday's third race at Fairplex Park with Jaws n' Paws.
The 56-year-old trainer has successfully passed the five-year mark of being free from inoperable throat cancer since the diagnoses was rendered in March, 2005. The life-threatening ordeal has given the native of Minsk, Russia, an even greater appreciation for his daily bread, not that he needed rose-colored glasses before it occurred. A bear of a man whose braggadocio is exceeded only by his physical presence, Abrams prefers to see the glass as half full.
"The economy is bad in every business, but I love being at Pomona and racing here," Abrams said. "Eventually, things will pick up, but right now, we have to get by with what we have and stop complaining, because every business is in trouble, not only our business.
"I live one day at a time anyway, but after what I went through, I have a different perspective on life. Until you get a serious illness, you realize money doesn't mean anything. Nobody is happier than I am to get up in the morning."
One thing barely impacted by the current down turn has been breeding interest in the sire Unusual Heat, in which Abrams long has had a vested interest. The rags-to-riches stallion remains one of the national leaders of turf runners based on earnings, and will continue to stand as he turns 21 on Jan. 1.
"He's moved to Harris Farms (in Coalinga), a new location for him (he previously stood at Old English Rancho in Sanger)," Abrams said. "Hopefully, he'll continue doing the great job he's done the last 10 years for us. He got 80 mares in foal last year and we're looking for the same number next year. His fee will stay the same--$20,000."
FAIRWELLS: Martin Pedroza and Jose Verenzuela each won three races Saturday. Pedroza now has 31 wins from 76 mounts and needs 21 over the final seven days-an average of three a day-to surpass his meet record of 51 victories set over 17 days in 2004. Pedroza was scheduled to ride 10 horses Sunday, five of them morning line favorites. His winning percentage is 41 and his mounts have earned $475,824 . . . Doug O'Neill is on his way to his second straight Fairplex training title. He had eight wins through Saturday, four ahead of his nearest rivals . . . The final day of racing, next Monday, Sept. 27, is Fan Appreciation Day. Admission, parking and programs will be free, and there will be bargain prices on popcorn, hot dogs and soda . . . Personal remembrances of trainer Noble Threewitt, who died Friday at the age of 99: He was a gentleman in the true sense of the word, with the emphasis on gentle; he once told me he didn't know the origin of his first name, nor did he know why he lived so long. "I had a sister who died in her 50s," he said.