Jack Disney to be Honored at Santa Anita

Track plans Jan. 27 tribute to longtime Southern California sportswriter, publicist.

Jack Disney, longtime sportswriter for the defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner and publicist at two major Southern California racetracks, will be honored Jan. 27 at Santa Anita Park.

Disney recently retired from his publicity duties at Santa Anita. The track will name a race for him as a tribute and the day will be recognized in the city of Arcadia as "Jack Disney Day."

"We are honored to be able to salute Jack in this way," said Santa Anita President George Haines. "He has long been one of the most respected guys in town and he always did a tremendous job for us in publicity. Jack has a great rapport with the media, horsemen, jockeys, our employees, and fans, and while we wish him well in his retirement, we truly miss having him with us on a regular basis.

"Jack provided us with the kind of stability, respect, and solid judgment that are hard to find and we want to sincerely thank him for representing Santa Anita in the manner he did for so many years."

A native of Los Angeles who attended Fairfax High, Disney went to work at the Herald a short while after completing high school and learned the sportswriting business under the wing of legendary columnist Bud Furillo.

Disney covered the fledgling major league Angels, the newly arrived Lakers, USC football, boxing, the Dodgers, the Los Angeles Raiders, and, of course, horse racing. 

"Those were great days," said Disney. "The crowds were huge then and I did pretty well handicapping in the paper. In addition to guys like Shoemaker, Longden, Pincay, and all the great horses, what I remember most about racing back in the '60s and '70s was how much fun it waswhether we were at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park or Del Mar, racing was really a happening and you always saw people you knew."

Shortly before the Herald Examiner closed in April 1989, Disney was lured by Hollywood Park's Marjorie Everett to become that track's publicity director.

"I'd known Marje from covering the races and it was a great opportunity for me at the time, and it facilitated my moving over to Santa Anita in 1992," said Disney.

In addition to working in publicity, Disney, along with his twin brother Doug, Buck Rodgers, Ross Newhan, Paul Salata, and others formed a horse ownership group called "Indizguys Stable."

"That venture provided my most memorable moment in sports," said Disney. "Bill Shoemaker's brilliant ride aboard Olden Times in the 1962 San Juan Capistrano Handicap had spurred my interest in racing, and then to win that historic event 45 years later with On the Acorn, who we claimed for $40,000, was beyond belief.

"On the Acorn went on to win back-to-back runnings of the Jim Murray Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park, and that was special because the race was named after a former colleague and dear friend. I owe a debt of gratitude to our trainer, Mike Mitchell, whose savvy helped me realize those thrills."

He added: "It's been such a great ride I don't need a bucket list. Over the past summer my wife, Emily, and I just decided that after all these years of working weekends and holidays, I needed to dedicate some quality time to our family and to our grandchildren.

"I can't think of a better place to close out my professional career than at Santa Anita. There is no venue more naturally beautiful in sports than Santa Anita Park. It is an incredible place, and Emily and I are looking forward to Jan. 27th joining a cherished list of indelible memories."