Trainer Leonard Dorfman

Trainer Leonard Dorfman

Benoit Photography

Veteran Trainer Dorfman Dies at Age 92

Among his multiple stakes winners was 16-time winner Joni U. Bar.

Veteran Southern California trainer Leonard Dorfman, whose stakes winners included 16-time winner Joni U. Bar, died Feb. 15 at the home of his daughter in Round Rock Texas, at age 92.

The affable Dorfman, a decorated World War II combat veteran who lied about his eyesight to enlist in the Army at age 19, would have been 93 on June 22, according to the Santa Anita Park publicity office.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who relocated to Los Angeles with his mother at the age of 7, Dorfman was best known as the conditioner of additional multiple stakes winners Biggs, Travel Orb, Minnesota Chief, and McCann's Mojave.

Dorfman gravitated to the track at an early age, and one of his first jobs was grooming horses at movie mogul Louis B. Mayer's farm in Hemet, Calif., in 1939 at age 17, according to Santa Anita.

"He was such a kind and gentle man," retired Hall of Fame jockey Donald Pierce said. "He was without a doubt one of the finest horsemen I ever rode for. We had a lot of success together. Leonard was always straight up with me, and when he told me he had something for me to ride, they were live, believe me."

Dorfman was active with his late friend, trainer Noble Threewitt, in the California Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and later the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

"Leonard had a sixth sense with horses," said Mike Willman, Santa Anita director of publicity and co-breeder and owner of McCann's Mojave. "The horse always came first with Leonard. He would often say, 'There's always another race.' He was an amazing, honest man and a wonderful human being."    

Trainer Ray Bell had this memory: "He had horses being transported by train for L.B. Mayer through the San Bernardino desert, and it was so hot, they opened the doors on the boxcar. Suddenly one of the horses breaks loose and jumps over a stack of straw bales and into the desert.

"Leonard couldn't notify anyone or stop the train, because he was way in the back, and this was way before cell phones or anything. He decided the first time the train stopped he would get to a phone and let them know there was a racehorse running around in the desert. Finally they stopped, probably somewhere in Arizona, and Leonard called L.B. Mayer's secretary and told her so-and-so is running loose in the desert out in San Bernardino.

"Anyway, they finally captured the horse and there wasn't a scratch on him. So they loaded him up on the next train for Chicago, they met him out there, and he wound up being a useful sort of horse."

Services for Dorfman, who is survived by his wife, Marlene, and daughter, Lisa Crisks, are pending.