By Julie Sarno
Four years after he was told he had throat cancer and a 20 per cent chance to live, trainer Barry Abrams is enjoying one of his best years ever. He currently ranks in the top 25 trainers nationwide in purses won with stable earnings of nearly $2.5 million as of August 20.
Abrams and his wife, Dyan, maintain a year-round vacation rental in Solana Beach. Many of the 25 horses Abrams trains are owned in part by his brother David, a Rancho Santa Fe resident.
Abrams said his diagnosis caught him off guard as he felt fine at the time, but had a marble-sized bump on the left side of his jaw. He consulted five physicians who gave him options of two different courses of treatment. He presented both options to a friend who is a doctor of internal medicine and asked, "What would you do if these were your choices?"
The physician was Dr. Stanley Golden, a Los Angeles-based doctor of internal medicine. The doctor who prescribed Abrams' course of treatment was Dr. Joel Arroyo, another doctor of internal medicine. Golden functioned as Barry's adviser during his treatment. Two years later, Abrams named the best filly he has trained to date for the two physicians, Golden Doc A. Last year at two, Golden Doc A won Del Mar's Generous Portion Stakes, a six-furlong test for Cal-bred 2-year-old fillies.
In February, Golden Doc A won the $250,000 Las Virgenes, a Grade I test for 3-year-old fillies in early February at Santa Anita. Then she finished second to Ariege in the $500,000 Santa Anita Oaks, also a Gr. I race.
Åbrams shipped Golden Doc A to Churchill Downs for the female equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks. The prestigious race is run the day before the Kentucky Derby at the Louisville track. Golden Doc A finished fourth to Proud Spell but Abrams remembers the occasion as a milestone.
"For me, it was the Kentucky Derby," he said. "Walking over with the horse was very exciting. Actually, I was almost numb; a moment like that is an inner feeling, it's hard to express, I think she ran great."
At the spring Santa Anita meeting, Abrams saddled 17 winners to ties for sixth place in the standings racing against larger, more powerful stables. Now at Del Mar, Abrams has won three stakes races during the short seaside meet. He saddled seven winners through August 21 and was tied for sixth with Peter Miller in the trainer standings.
After Abrams underwent his treatment for cancer, he suffered another blow when his mother died. She was buried in San Diego at El Camino Memorial Park. While visiting her grave, Abrams noticed a large monument nearby that always seemed to have fresh flowers on it. Looking at the birth and death dates, Abrams realized the deceased had been only 23 at the time he died. One day Abrams observed a man, seemingly waiting until Abrams finished visiting his mother's grave. When Abrams walked away, the man approached the large monument. Waiting respectfully at a distance, Abrams asked as the man returned to his car if he was the father of the deceased. Abrams learned the young man, Sean Lewis Robins, had died of Ewing's sarcoma in 2006, a rare childhood bone cancer that he had fought for six years. The Robins family began a charity to help find a cure for the disease. Named the Seany Foundation, its purpose is to raise money for research to find a cure for the disease that took their beloved son. Moved by his own experience with cancer, Abrams donated to the cause. Since, he has named two horses after Robins and whenever either horse wins purse money, a portion is donated to the Seany Foundation.