Horse owner Mark Takenaka delighted officials at Santa Anita Park Jan. 17 when he more than doubled his winning "VIP Day" donation for AmeriCare Foundation's Tsunami Relief Fund. His winning bid for the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) package was $4,450. Instead, Takenaka presented stunned director of broadcasting Amy J. Zimmerman with a check for $10,000. Takenaka's prize includes lunch for two in the director's room, a VIP tour of the track, plus a trip to the winner's circle to present the trophy to the winning owners of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap. Later that evening, Takenaka and his wife will join MEC vice president for industry relations Chris McCarron for dinner at the historic Derby Restaurant in Arcadia. Thirty-five bids were made through eBay, and Takenaka said he was prepared to go much higher than $4,550, hence the check for $10,000. The entire amount will be donated to the AmeriCare Foundation's Tsunami Relief Fund."Number one, I wanted to give to the Tsunami Relief Fund because you want to help out," Takenaka said. "Number two, Santa Anita is in my roots. I galloped horses 20 years ago for Hector Palma and Jack Van Berg. I love the sport."An aspiring jockey, Takenaka shelved that career after breaking his clavicle in a training accident on a 2-year-old. He now works for WMC Direct, a wholesale mortgage company in Woodland Hills, and lives in Valencia with his wife, Mindy, and three children.Takenaka remains involved in Thoroughbred racing as an owner. He has one horse with trainer John Sadler and is part of seven Team Valor syndicates. "When I heard about the auction I just knew I had to get involved," Takenaka said. "When I went there Monday, I said 'Amy, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to double up.' She was shocked, but elated.
"I hope this starts a trend," he added. "I'd like to see jockeys, trainers, owners, just everybody in the sport, make a donation."McCarron supports the suggestion.At the suggestion of jockey Mike Smith, McCarron said Santa Anita would match donations to AmeriCare made by the jockeys. "We are happy to do that," McCarron said. "Additionally, we will have Golden Gate Fields match the donations of the jockey colony there."