The Southern California racetrack community gathered for a rare chance to hear Mace Siegel make a speech when the Gregson Foundation honored him and his daughter, Samantha, at a dinner in Pasadena April 15. Usually behind the scenes with their philanthropy, the Siegels stepped forward because the more than $100,000 raised goes to college scholarships for the children of backstretch workers.
“When you get involved in horse racing, it really teaches you to have humility,” Mace Siegel told the crowd, “because 98% of what you do is wrong, and when you do something right, you don’t learn anything from it because it will never repeat itself.”
Part tribute, part roast, the dinner program included remarks from the Siegels’ trainer, Ron Ellis; Billy Koch of Little Red Feather Racing; and former rider Pat Day, who thanked the Siegels for their efforts on behalf of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America. Racetrack announcer Trevor Denman emceed the event, and people ranging from Santa Anita Park president Ron Charles to Kentucky breeder and former Gov. Brereton Jones spoke about the Siegels as part of a film put together by HRTV.
The Siegel stable, which included Mace’s wife and Samantha’s mother, Jan, before her death in 2002, has campaigned such stakes winners as champion Declan’s Moon, I Ain’t Bluffing, Urbane, Stormy But Valid, I Believe in You, and Hedonist.
“For my count, Mace and Sam have campaigned eight grade I winners,” Koch said. “If I used Mace’s theory of only going to the winner’s circle for grade I races, I’d have appeared in only one winner’s circle picture in my entire racing career.”
Samantha Siegel reminded Koch that it was a good one, following Singletary’s victory in the 2004 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT).
In addition to honoring the Siegels, the dinner program included the introduction of seven scholarship recipients, several of whom had their artwork on display. One former recipient, Jetta Vaughns, could not attend the dinner because she is currently serving in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia.
Mace Siegel also spoke about the late trainer Eddie Gregson, for whom the scholarship program is named.
“Eddie trained for us,” Siegel said. “The great thing about Eddie is that the horse came first. Eddie really loved the horses. There was no finer man in racing.”