Lifetime Achievement - Washington Racing Hall of Fame

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Ron Crockett

Ron Crockett
(1939- , Inducted 2004)

In the face of tremendous uncertainties, delays and cost overruns associated with wetlands issues and other hurdles, Ron Crockett, through the force of his own will, completed a very complicated and difficult four-year struggle with the opening of Emerald Downs in 1996.
    From that time forward, every concession our local racing industry has received from Olympia lawmakers to advance horsemen’s interests has been furthered with his help. The new “partnership” alignment with the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe is further evidence of Crockett’s leadership.
     Crockett has contributed mightily to the local racing community with both time and money to the Backstretch Clubhouse Daycare Center, the Racetrack Chaplaincy program, the building of the on-site WTBOA offices and sale pavilion, as well as a state-of-the-art emergency care equine center.
     His impact on Washington breeding and racing have been nearly as significant. Crockett’s vast stable has had horses at numerous local farms and employs several local trainers.
     The founder of TRAMCO, a commercial aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility now owned by BF Goodrich, he has also been involved in real estate development. He has been active on many advisory boards and committees at his alma mater, the University of Washington, and has received many awards, including the 1995 S. J. Agnew Special Achievement Award.
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Joseph Gottstein

Joseph Gottstein
(1891-1971, Inducted 2003)

A Seattle native, Joe Gottstein was the only son of Polish immigrants. After attending Brown University, he returned to Seattle and became a true pioneer in this city’s real estate development. Gottstein’s father had given him his first race horse at the age of eight, but The Meadows, Washington’s first major race track, had been closed in 1903 by the anti-gambling furor. In 1922, Gottstein began to campaign for legislation that would legalize racing once again and in 1933, when House Bill 59 was signed into law, he was ready to bring his dream to life. Thg original Longacres grandstand and track were built in only 28 days. From the opening day at Longacres, exactly 70 years ago last month (8/3/33), until his death from cancer at age 79, Gottstein’s vision ensured the success of racing in Washington. He inaugurated the Longacres Mile in 1935 with a $10,000 purse – an enormous sum of money at that time. In 1940, Gottstein started a grass roots campaign among breeders, which led to the formation of the Washington Horse Breeders Association.
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Jack Hodge

Jack Hodge
(1945- , Inducted 2012)

Born in Cleveland in 1945, Jack Hodge has lived in Washington for nearly 40 years. Hodge had worked in the airline industry and was a successful commercial real estate developer before he became involved in the Thoroughbred industry through the claiming ranks in 1981 with the haltering of Mostly Malarkey at Longacres. That runner won his first outing for Hodge and partners and the die was set. Another claim, Spanish Lace, set in motion Jack and his wife Theresa’s fate as breeders. According to Jack, the mare “was kind and very nice. (She) whetted my appetite for the breeding business.”
    After their initial success, the Hodges purchased breeder Hall of Fame nominee Maurice McGrath’s well-established Takhoma Farm in Enumclaw and renamed their new home Oak Crest Farm. Their daughter Stephanie is an accomplished equestrian.
    The Hodges next stop on their equine trail was the Keeneland November sales where the couple made the serendipitous purchase of the young Bupers mare Momma Taj, who was carrying her first foal by Lt. Stevens. That foal, Colonel Stevens, became Washington’s 1983 champion two-year-old colt.
    The first stakes winner to race in the Hodges’ silks was 1985 Miss Grillo Stakes winner Golden Screen.
    Oak Crest has bred three other Washington champions, including two distaffers (Peterhof’s Patea and Guinevere) who would be named Washington horses of the year (1993 and 1998). 2007 Hall of Fame inductee Peterhof’s Patea was also state champion two-year-old filly in 1990 and twice champion older mare. Guinevere, who raced in the Hodges’ colors, was a champion distaffer at three and four. The Hodges also raced 1988 homebred champion older filly Finally Free.
    Since ranking 26th among Washington breeders in 1983, Oak Crest Farm has consistently stood among the top 50 breeders statewide, reaching as high as fourth twice (1990 and 1993).
    The Hodges were named TOBA Washington breeders/owners of the year in 1990 and Oak Crest Farm was a three-time “Washington Breeder of the Month” (1998, 1999 and 2000) and was also named “Owner of the Month” in 1988. Oak Crest Farm was also the leading owner by wins at Emerald Downs in 1999.
    Among the other successful stakes horses the Hodges have raced was Washington sprint champion Crystal Run (in partnership), who in turn sired their homebred Crystal’s Double, winner of the 1994 Emerald Lads Stakes. The Hodges also bred and raced $257,318 stakes winner Inclinator and Angie C. Stakes winner Amocat, both offspring of Delineator; $290,014 stakes winner and graded stakes-placed Herculated; and 2006 Frizette Stakes (G1) winner Sutra, a daughter of Meadowlake who earned $356,873. Other stakes winners bred by the Hodges include Dollarwatchcrosing, Takin Dead Aim and Fort Tunney.
    Most recently, Oak Crest bred Kit Cat Kitty, winner of the 2011 Diane Kem Stakes for Washington-bred two-year-old fillies, but the Hodges have also been in the national limelight as partners ofmultiple graded stakes winners Upperline, a $772,988 earning daughter of Maria’s Mon, and $668,543 earner Willcox Inn, a son of Harlan’s Holiday.
    Jack was among the original investors in Emerald Racing Association in 1990 and was elected to its board of directors in 1992. He was the on-site coordinator for the permitting, design and construction of the Auburn track and currently manages the day-to-day facility operations. He has served as the vice president of Northwest Racing Associates Limited Partnership (operators of Emerald Downs) since the track’s inception. A longtime member of the WTBOA and former board member, Jack has also served on the advisory board of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Board.

Pete Pedersen

Pete Pedersen
(1920-2012, Inducted 2008)

Pete Pedersen is a man of many talents and a master of them all. The Seattle native was born in 1920 and was present when Longacres opened its doors for the first time on August 3, 1933. Now 88, he has been involved with racing ever since.
    At age 12, he began walking hots and selling programs at the Renton track. His first job working on the frontside entailed being a teletype operator for Seattle Post-Intelligencer turf editor Mike Donohoe. Later, his position in track publicity helped put him through school at the University of Washington where he studied journalism and rowed on the eight-man crew.
    After college, he served in the Navy as a flyer during World War II. Upon his return from duty Pedersen was hired as Longacres’ director of publicity.
    In 1947 Pedersen was hired by Tanforan (in Northern California) to be a steward’s aide during the Longacres’ off season. Those were the first steps in a journey that would last until his retirement in 2005 and lead to accolades such as “a veritable beacon of integrity,” as well as an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2002. He first served as a full steward at the 1948 Longacres meeting – where owner Joe Gottstein also kept him busy as director of publicity and as a member of the board of handicappers.
    In 1951, the always versatile Pedersen was hired as a patrol judge by William Kyne, who had founded Bay Meadows and Portland Meadows. Pedersen became a permanent member of the California steward scene in 1955, adding Santa Anita to his territory in 1958 and Del Mar and Pleasanton in 1968.
    To supplement his income, Pedersen became a freelance writer and gained recognition as one of the turf’s most astute authors. Among the publications that have featured his work are: Colliers, Liberty, Turf and Sport Digest, Thoroughbred Times, Daily Racing Form, San Francisco Chronicle, The Blood-Horse, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Horse and its newer incarnation – Washington Thoroughbred.
    He was one of the earliest leaders of the North American Racing Officials and officiated during that first semi-turbulent Breeders’ Cup Day held in 1984 at Hollywood Park.
    Earlier this year, Pedersen was honored with the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award, given to the individual who has served the sport with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction.
    Pedersen currently resides in Arcadia, California, but makes a special point to return each year to his roots for the running of the Longacres Mile.
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Jim Seabeck

James P. Seabeck
(1913-2011, Inducted 2010)

James P. Seabeck is a remarkable man and one full of great enthusiasm and energy. A well-respected cattleman and owner of the Stockland Union Stockyards in Spokane, the 97-year-old Seabeck has noted accomplishments in almost every area of the Pacific Northwest Thoroughbred world.
    Born in Rockville, Nebraska, Seabeck was one of four sons and two daughters of respected farmer, stockman, butcher and cattle feeder John Seabeck. He attended the University of Nebraska before moving to Southern Idaho where he worked on various livestock farms. Seabeck married Novia George in 1935 in Twin Falls. Shortly thereafter they moved, in a Model A Ford, to Tacoma, where he went to work for the Carstens Packing Company and they raised four daughters – Marlene, Kathleen, Connie and Kristi. The Seabecks returned to Twin Falls in 1959 and later moved to Spokane in 1964.
    As a young man Seabeck saw the legendary Seabiscuit race and was present when George Woolf made his fateful last ride in January 1946.
    Seabeck purchased his first Thoroughbred over 60 years ago from a man in Tacoma. That weanling, a 1946 son of *Olimpio named Olimpio Jr., won 24 races and earned $22,710. Seven years later Seabeck stood in the winner’s circle after Ocean Mist, who trainer Jack Mihalcik had found at the 1949 Keeneland sales for a price reported between $700 and $800, raced to victory for Seabeck and Spokane resident Phil Carsten’s C & S Stable in the Longacres Mile. Flash forward 53 years and Seabeck and partner Gene Barber won the Portland Meadows Mile with Charlie’s Pride. Seabeck has close to 700 photos resulting from his wins in 13 states and British Columbia.
    The C & S Stable partnership ranked fifth in the 1954 Washington breeders’ standings after four of the five runners they bred won nine races and earned $21,020. Among those juveniles was champion Better Not Bet, who was unbeaten in five starts and won both the Washington and Spokane Futurities. His $18,060 in earnings was the largest amount ever won by a Washington-bred two-year-old. Other stakes winners bred by Seabeck include the Spokane Futurity winning half-brothers Charity Line (1968) and Hope Line (1971) and stakes winner and stakes producer Miss Manito, whose dam Pretty as Picture won 19 races for Seabeck.
    Seabeck, who joined the WHBA in 1947 and is the association’s longest member, was first elected to its board of directors in 1950. He served through 1965, including three stints as secretary. He was vice president in 1953 and was elected president in 1954.
    Always involved, Seabeck was president of the Livestock Marketing Association in 1993-94 and served on the Washington Horse Racing Commission from January 1993 to January 1999. A Jim Seabeck Award is given at the Junior Livestock Show of Spokane to recognize 4-H Clubs and FFA Chapters that strive for high excellence while competing at the yearly show.
    Novia died in 2007 and Seabeck recently remarried. A recent note from the near centenarian said he couldn’t attend the 2010 WTBOA annual meeting because he had some cattle business in Montana.
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Mickey and Karen Taylor

Karen and Mickey Taylor
(Inducted 2011)

Mickey and Karen Taylor were first noted on the Thoroughbred racing scene when the young White Swan couple was sighted at the 1973 WTBOA Summer Yearling Sale where they purchased a Cold Command filly out stakes winner Mrs. Wong for $5,000. The filly, Felicity Trueblood, would never make it to the races.
    Karen Pearson and Mickey Taylor had been high school sweethearts. She became a flight attendant for Northwest Orient Airlines while Mickey, a fourth generation lumberman, started his own lumber business in 1972. Later, as the price of lumber soared, Mickey promised Karen a racehorse for their third wedding anniversary.
    In the fall of 1973 the Taylors ventured to the East Coast to look at horses and Karen fell in love with a six-year-old stakes-winning Blue Prince gelding named Triangular, who they purchased privately from Hobeau Farm and sent to trainer Jim Penney’s barn in Southern California. Triangular won his first start for the couple in December and added two more victories in his first four outings for them. Among those wins was a five-length victory in the Grade 3 San Marcos Handicap at Santa Anita on January 27, 1974. The runner raced under Pearson’s Barn Inc. and their silks featured a logging truck.
    In June of the following year the Taylors privately purchased a well-bred four-year-old daughter of Tom Rolfe named Mama Kali from William H. Perry. She earned her first stakes victory for the Washington couple in the 1975 Osunitas Stakes. Mama Kali later added two Rancho Bernardo Stakes wins and also took the $50,000 California Jockey Club Stakes.
    By this time the Taylors had been in racing for three full seasons and had raced five stakes winners. While Triangular, Mama Kali, Palladium and Lexington Laugh were all nice horses, it was their fifth stakes winner that would put them on the map.
    While looking at yearlings at the 1975 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July Yearling Sale, offspring of first crop sire Bold Reasoning caught their attention. The Taylors ended up buying four yearlings at the sale, two by Bold Reasoning. One was a colt who was the first foal from Fair Ground Oaks winner My Charmer, a daughter of the talented, but slightly psychotic Poker. Later named Seattle Slew, the $17,500 purchase would go down in racing annals as one of the best racehorses and sires of all time.
    Unbeaten in three starts at two, Seattle Slew, who raced that season in Karen’s name alone, even though he was owned by a partnership of the Taylors and veterinarian Jim Hill and his wife Sally, was honored as the champion two-year-old colt of his crop. The late Dr. Bob Penney had first introduced the Taylors and the Hills.
    The following year the Cinderella story would explode into a world-wide bestseller, as the rough and ready colt added “Slewmania” to the lexicon after becoming the first unbeaten Triple Crown winner in history.
    After finishing a tired fourth in the Swaps Stakes (G1), the only time the great colt finished worse than second in 17 starts, the “Slew Crew” brought their champion to Washington where his two-day “Golden Gallop” at Longacres raised funds which were equally divided between the University of Washington’s cancer research program and equine research at Washington State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
    The easy choice, Slew earned his second Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old and topped that with Horse of the Year honors.
    Slew would thrill fans with seven more starts at four, of which he would win five and finish only a nose or a neck behind the winner in the other two. He would earn his third champion title and retire with earnings of $1,208,726.
    The dark bay powerhouse became one of the few horses that could simply do it all, both as a racehorse and sire. The Taylors and Hills, along with Karen’s father and brother, formed Seminole Syndicate to purchase top mares for their new stallion. In his 24 crops, he would sire 114 stakes winners among his 1,016 foals (11.2 percent), including the great A. P. Indy and seven other champions. He was American’s leading sire in 1984 and its leading damsire in 1995 and 1996, with his daughters so far producing over 200 stakes winners.
    In 1984, the Taylors and Hills established the Seattle Slew Foundation, which sold a Slew season each year to benefit organizations such as the Kentucky Derby Museum, Maxwell Gluck Equine Center and the Kentucky Equine Institute.
    The Taylors raced many top offspring of their once-in-a-lifetime horse, including two-time champion Slew o’ Gold and Grade 1 winner Slewpy – who was raced by the Taylors and Hills under Equusequity Stable. The Taylors have also bred and raced many successful runners with their longtime partner, actor Albert Finney. More recently they campaigned 2004 Cup and Saucer Stakes winner Slew’s Saga, who now stands at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Oregon, and whose first crop is headed by 2011 Barbara Shinpoch winner Sweet Saga.
    During Seattle Slew’s years at stud, Karen and Mickey spent much of their time in Kentucky, especially in the months leading up to Slew’s death on May 7, 2002, 25 years to the day after his victory in the Kentucky Derby.
    The couple’s main residence is now in Sun Valley, Idaho, but each year they graciously return to Emerald Downs to honor the winner of the Seattle Slew Handicap.

Ralph Vacca

Ralph Vacca
(1935- , Inducted 2013)

Vacca was born November 8, 1935, in Seattle, the first of two sons of Ralph A. and Rose Vacca, was raised in the Rainier Valley and graduated from Franklin High School. Both sets of his grandparents had vegetable farms and he loved spending time with the horses that worked those farms.
    Washington Racing Hall of Farm breeder and prominent horseman and teamster Frank Brewster and Terry McNulty would visit the Vacca family store to buy fresh produce and offered the young Vacca brothers the chance to walk horses at Longacres at 50 cents a horse. So, while still in school, they would get up at 5:00 a.m. to go to the track and walk hots before heading to Franklin High.
    He counts his “best moment” as the first time he stepped through the back gates at Longacres and trainer G. L. Martin handed him a shank attached to the filly Seattle Belle to walk, telling him to “take her to the left.”
    At 20, he sent letters to major farms in Kentucky to apply for a job. He got two replies. One was a definite no and the other, from Stoner Creek Farm manager Charles Kenney, offered him the lowly wage of $40 a week in a starter position. Kenney would give him many opportunities to learn the various phases of the horse business.
    So, in September 1955, Vacca made the cross-country trip to Kentucky and his second best moment was arriving in Lexington for the very first time and being “in heaven.”
    In 1959, Vacca returned to Washington where he joined WHBA staff as field secretary and also was the advertising representative for The Washington Horse magazine and worked with association’s 4‑H program.
    While he loved being home in Washington, Vacca found all the travelling required as field secretary was not what he wanted to do with his life, so in October 1961 he returned to Kentucky to take a position in the advertising department of the Thoroughbred Record and later worked in the Lexington office of the Daily Racing Form.
    Ralph was welcomed back to the WHBA in September, 1964, and on January 1, 1966, he became the magazine editor.
    In May 1973, Ed Heinemann resigned from the WHBA and Vacca was appointed “interim” WTBA general manager. By the following November he was awarded the position outright.
    Through the years Vacca has been an ambassador to the sport, an industry spokesman, has encouraged young people, helped bring stallions to the state (including Native Born, Balance of Power and Captain Courageous), advised people with broodmare purchases and matings (always telling them to seek QUALITY), helped pass important state legislation, was an editorial and ad writer and served as a bid spotter and pedigree reader at sales.
    After Longacres was sold to The Boeing Company in 1990, Vacca played a pivotal part in the effort to keep racing moving forward.
    In May 2002, Washington Governor Gary Locke appointed Vacca to serve on the Washington Horse Racing Commission.
    Even after his retirement from WTBOA on December 31, 2007, after 47 years with the association, he is still involved with Thoroughbreds. He became a first-time horse owner in 2008, racing the filly Dah Gift. He has continued serving on industry committees and boards, such as the Washington Thoroughbred Foundation. In 2011 and 2012 he helped longtime friend Dr. Mark Dedomenico put on two successful two-year-old sales at Dedomenico’s Pegasus Thoroughbred Training and Rehabilitation Center. And in addition to being a presence both on the backstretch in the morning and frontside in the afternoons, he continues as an ambassador for the sport he loves so dearly.
    Vacca’s most recent occupation involves administering the MOJO Fund, an industry-related charitable fund created by Ken and Marleen Alhadeff.
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