B.J. Wright

B.J. Wright

Benoit Photo

Southern California Owner B.J. Wright Dies

Raced Jeranimo, Ultimate Eagle in Southern California.

B.J. Wright, the colorful owner of major winners Jeranimo  and Ultimate Eagle, died July 8, his trainer, Mike Pender, reported. Wright, 76, had been ill for several months.

An enthusiastic Southern California owner who had hugs for everyone whenever his horses would win, Wright had great success teaming up with Pender. Jeranimo, owned in partnership with Robert LaPenta, has earned $1,525,364. The 8-year-old son of Congaree Jera, by Jeblar, won such races as the 2013 Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IT) and 2012 Shoemaker Mile Stakes (gr. IT).

Pender also trained Ultimate Eagle for Wright, and the horse now stands at Special T Thoroughbreds near Temecula, Calif. A 6-year-old son of Mizzen Mast Letithappencaptain, by Captain Bodgit, Ultimate Eagle earned $547,800, and his stakes victories included the 2011 Hollywood Derby (gr. IT).

Wright first met Pender when coaching football at an elementary school in Glendale, Calif. Pender was the team's quarterback during their undefeated season. Years later, Wright reconnected with Pender at the racetrack and hired him as his trainer.

"We came together at the perfect time," said Pender, who saw Wright as a mentor.

Wright grew up in Shelbyville, Ky., and his love of Thoroughbred racing built when he saw how fans mourned the death of Man o' War in 1947. He enjoyed selecting horses out of sales, with the help of Pender and Rick Taylor of Special T.

"We feel you've got to have a good individual who looks right and moves right," Wright once said. "The pedigree is also very important. In that last sixteenth of a mile, sometimes the pedigree can get you home."

Wright bought Jeranimo and Ultimate Eagle each for $70,000 at auction. He took great pride in giving them strong names. Jeranimo was named for the Native American Geronimo, with the different spelling after The Jockey Club turned down his first attempt.

"Geronimo was one of the great Americans, one of the original Americans, a true leader, a warrior," said Wright. "This horse is a warrior."

Wright named Ultimate Eagle after his good friend John Paul DeJoria, who built up several businesses from scratch to become a billionaire.

Wright has served as chairman of LifeSource Whole-House Water Systems, a water filtration company in Pasadena, Calif. He also donated funds and efforts to Nancy Santullo's House of the Children, which provides clean water and sanitation to those in need around the world.

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