By Julie Sarno
Horses make the world go round for Tom and Marnye Blincoe. Tom trains a stable of racehorses and Marnye manages the Del Mar Horse Park. The couple lives in Rancho Santa Fe.
Tom currently is based at Del Mar, where the red and white colors of his tack boxes and stall webbings brighten the shedrow. After the Del Mar season, he is based at Santa Anita and keeps an apartment there to prevent daily commuting.
"To be in the horse business, you have to be competitive and devoted," said Blincoe. His routine includes rising at 4 a.m. each morning and arriving at the barn before 5 a.m. every day of the year, holidays included.
When Blincoe began training, most trainers worked for one client. Nowadays, most train public stables, conditioning horses for many owners. Blincoe, however, trains exclusively for Richard and Sandy Bell of Norman, Oklahoma.
"I met him at the Barrett's sale in 1995 or 1996," said Blincoe. "We just hit it off. He races in California where the racing is the best in the world. We breed Cal-breds and have six mares to take advantage of the breeders' awards program. We rarely claim or buy horses now."
Blincoe fell in love with horses and racing as a boy growing up in Kentucky. When not in school he was whitewashing fences surrounding lush green pastures at famed bluegrass horse farms. One summer during his high school years, Blincoe worked for the Maine Chance Farm of cosmetics company founder Elizabeth Arden. Known to be a tough taskmaster, Arden doted on her horses and often visited them when in Lexington.
"We called her Old Lady Lipstick," recalled Blincoe. "I had a pet raccoon then, named Trouble, because he all he ever did was cause trouble. He jumped down and grabbed her leg. She was really startled. All she said was 'Who owns this raccoon?' I told her I did. I thought she was going to fire me but she didn't."
While in college at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Blincoe worked for trainer Pete Battle when he conditioned Sweet Patootie, champion 2-year-old filly of 1952 and, later, the top filly Mommy Dear, who won 11 of 24 races and $104,424 - a lot of money in the late 1950s.
Blincoe moved to California to train horses and by the late 1960s had a number of good horses. Blincoe's top horses included Delaware Chief, a horse he trained for the Dansar Stable of Frank Sinatra, entertainment lawyer Micky Rudin and Danny Swartz, who owned Boise Cascade.
"Frank Sinatra was a super guy to work for," recalled Blincoe. "His mother loved the horses and was at the races every day. Things were not the same after his mother was killed in the plane crash."
Blincoe syndicated Delaware Chief at the end of his racing career in 1972, saying it was the first stallion syndication in California. Another Hollywood figures Blincoe trained for was Bob Quigley, an avid racing fan who (with Merrill Heatter) created, owned and produced the classic television game show Hollywood Squares.
By the late 1970s, Blincoe was riding a wave of success and had a large stable of 50 or 60 horses. He also was dealing in real estate and also owned Green Ridge Farm in Lake Elsinore. Years before, he had promised himself he would retire at age 40. So at 40, Blincoe moved the whole family to Montana and stayed there for 12 years while his five children grew up.
When Canterbury Park opened in Shakopee, Minnesota, racing's lure proved strong. Blincoe bought 12 yearlings with his Montana neighbor. After a year at Canterbury, he moved to Arcadia, California, to train at Santa Anita in the mid 1980s. Blincoe and his family moved to Rancho Santa Fe in 1990.
The 71-year-old trainer has eight horses at Del Mar, including 4-year-old Nicole's Image, named for the owners' daughter. He has a two-year-old Bertrando gelding named High Way Sixty Six, a half-brother to stablemate Gobbler's Knob, who finished second at Del Mar on July 31. Blincoe expects to have some 2-year-olds racing later during the race meet. His 2-year-olds include Ma Barker, by Swiss Yodeler, named for the infamous outlaw who, with her four sons, robbed banks in the Midwest in the 1930s, and Jet Set Lass, a 2-year-old daughter of In Excess.
Blincoe and his wife, Marnye, have been married for 33 years. They have five grown children, Tamara, Todd, Thomas, Kimberly and Trail. Tamara is married with two children and also lives in Rancho Santa Fe. Kimberly is engaged to Dean Scott and the couple is planning an October wedding. Todd and Thomas are contractors and the youngest, Trail, is a fireman and paramedic in Costa Mesa.
Tom's wife, Marnye, manages Del Mar Horse Park, part of the 22nd Agricultural District. After raising their five children, Marnye wanted something to do. In 1994, she undertook responsibilities for the dual-purpose facility, which features boarding and equestrian events.
"Horse Park has some of the largest shows in the country," said the horsewoman who has a busy month. "We have the Summer Classic coming up on August 20-24 and the All Seasons Show on August 27-31."
She gives credit for Horse Park's popularity as a show grounds to Robert Ridland, president of Blenheim Equisports, which has been putting on shows at Horse Park during her tenure there. Ridland was a two-time member of the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and color analyst for NBC during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
According to Blincoe, about 275 horses board at Horse Park but as many as 1,200 horses may be on the grounds during a show. A major equestrian facility, Horse Park was the first West Coast site to host Olympic selection trials. Horse Park hosted two of five rounds of selection trials for the United States Equestrian Team's 2000 Olympic squad.
Despite busy schedules and never-ending responsibilities, neither husband nor wife wants to surrender any part of the horse world.