During a career that has spanned more than 50 years at the racetrack, Mel Stute has grown to become one of the most popular, adored and dedicated trainers in southern California. At Fairplex Park in Pomona, however, he is simply a legend. On Sunday, Sept. 28, the final day of Fairplex’s annual summer race meeting, the 76-year-old Stute will be inducted as the first member of the Fairplex Park Racing Hall of Fame.
Born in 1927 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mel Stute came to California as a child and eventually followed in the footsteps of his older brother, trainer Warren Stute. It was Warren Stute, in fact, who gave the younger Mel his first horse to train. Mel Stute saddled his initial winner in 1947, and since then, he has fashioned one of the most successful training careers in racing history.
Along the way, his stable has been home to some very famous thoroughbreds. The most notable of them all was Snow Chief. A son of the stallion Reflected Glory, Snow Chief earned his most important victory in the 1986 Preakness Stakes and also won such renowned races as the Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby, Jersey Derby, Hollywood Futurity and Charles H. Strub Stakes. The colt was voted an Eclipse Award in 1986 as the nation’s outstanding 3-year-old male horse, and he retired the following year with $3,383,210 in career purse earnings. At the time, it was the most ever for a horse bred in California.
Another Stute runner earned an Eclipse Award in 1986, as well and her name was Brave Raj. The filly, a daughter of the stallion Rajab, climaxed her championship campaign that year by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meet. She was subsequently honored with an Eclipse as the top 2-year-old filly in America. Stute gained further notoriety at the Breeders’ Cup in 1987 when he saddled the filly Very Subtle to beat a field full of the country’s best male sprinters in the Breeders’ Cup Spring at Hollywood Park.
Snow Chief, Brave Raj and Very Subtle gave Stute his biggest accomplishments on the national state during the mid-1980s, yet for many years prior to that, he had
enjoyed great success in some of southern California’s most prestigious races. Among the best of his early stakes winners were First Balcony, Commissary, Telly’s Pop, Double Discount, Boo La Boo and Stancharry. Over the last 15 years, Stute’s barn has remained one of the strongest on the local racing circuit, led by stakes winners Score Quick, Real Connection, Kool Arrival, Klassy Kim and College Town. Currently, his stable features the stakes-winning filly Buffythecenterfold and leading 2-year-old colt Perfect Moon.
Regarded as one of the most generous and likeable trainers in the sport, Stute has won training titles at both the summer and autumn meets at Hollywood Park as well as at Santa Anita and Oak Tree. He ranks fifth in career wins at Hollywood behind only Charlie Whittingham, Bobby Frankel, Ron McAnally—each a member of the Racing Hall of Fame—and Mike Mitchell, while at Del Mar, he ranks sixth in overall winners. In April of 2001, Stute became just the fifth trainer in history to saddle 500 career winners at Santa Anita’s winter/spring meeting.
At Fairplex Park, however, Stute’s numbers stand alone. He has led the trainers’ standings seven times so far, including the 1986 meet which saw him win a track record 13 races. Heading into the 2003 meet, Stute had 172 career wins, including 42 in stakes races. Both figures are all-time Fairplex records, as well.
Stute will be honored with a ceremonial inducation in the winners’ circle on the afternoon of Sept. 28, just prior to the track’s feature stakes race, the Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap. It is a race Stute has already won three times, in 1984 with Fabulous Dad and in both 1997 and 1998 with Score Quick.
This is the 65th racing season at the L.A. County Fair. Dates are Sep