At 92, Del Mar resident’s passion for horse racing is stronger than ever
By Julie Sarno
For 92-year-old Del Mar resident Fae Sanger, horse racing is the spice of life.
She has a runner named Stacy’s Hope with trainer John Sadler and looks forward to seeing the 5-year-old race during the Del Mar meet.
“Racing is a main interest in my life,” said Sanger. “It’s what keeps me going.”
At the races, Sanger is often found in her box on the second level, right near that of well-known trainer Bob Baffert. She recalls that in the old grandstand, her box was right next to that of popular entertainer Jimmy Durante.
Fae and her late husband, Everett, were married in 1935.
“We both loved the horses. We first went to the races at Arlington Downs, which was a track between Dallas and Ft. Worth. If the horses were running, we were there.”
Fae and Everett caused quite a stir when they were wed. Fae was 15 and Everett was 21. The couple drove from Los Angeles to Arizona where they could obtain a marriage license.
“My mother did not know,” recalled Sanger. “We sent each of our mothers a telegram which read, “Just married. See you soon. Love, Ev & Fae.”
“My brother told me there was a telephonic explosion when my mother spoke to Ev’s mother,” chuckled Sanger. “My brother said it was the best show of all. We came back and hid from everyone. We stayed at the Hotel Del Mar and then went to the apartment in Los Angeles we had sense enough to rent before we went away.”
Sanger said her mother was fond of Everett and soon came around. Everett’s family owned Sanger Brothers department stores in Texas, which began as Sanger Brothers Dry Goods Company of Dallas. Founded in 1868, they were acquired by Federated in 1961. The stores were then known as Sanger-Harris and later became part of Federated’s Houston-based chain Foley’s in the late 1980s.
The couple looked for a house to rent on the beach at Del Mar as Everett was a devout swimmer. According to Sanger, “We drove up and down the beach looking for a place to rent in the early1950s. We found a house to rent for the winter, a producer had it in the summer. Lucy (Lucille Ball) and Desi [Arnaz] lived next door.”
“A dear friend of ours got us into racing,” began Fae Sanger. “His name was Barney Shea – an Irishman. He and his wife, Millie, were our best friends. They lived across the street. We asked Barney if we could afford to own a racehorse and he replied, ‘You can’t afford not to.’”
Fae has owned horses ever since. She and her husband began racing horses at Caliente in Tijuana. Then Sadler began training for them in California. After Fae’s husband passed away in 1992, she continued to race horses, always trained by Sadler.
“John Sadler is a lovely man,” smiled Sanger. “He was 28 when he started training for us and he turns 56 at the end of July. Going to the barn is a family affair.”
Each year, on her first visit to the barn, Sanger takes a 6-foot submarine sandwich from Albertsons for the barn help and a birthday cake for trainer Sadler. “I’ve loved all of my runners and enjoy going to the barn early in the morning.”
Del Mar resident Don Terwilliger will accompany Sanger, who was a friend of his parents.
Sanger remembers going to the Angelus Temple operated by Aimee Semple McPherson when she was a child. McPherson was a California evangelist and media celebrity of the 1920s and ‘30s, and a pioneer in the use of radio.
“The Angelus Church was a lot more interesting than traditional church services,” recalled Sanger. “Something was always going on there — double weddings and such. They put on a good show.”
Sanger lives on the border of Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe. She has the company of her nephew, Rob Quandt, and his wife, Tracy, and her Anatolian shepherd. Sanger said, “He’s the first dog I’ve owned who is not a German Shepherd. I’m his possession, instead of the other way around. The breed was developed to herd and protect sheep from bears and wolves. When he knows you, he leads you to the cabinet where his treats are kept.”
“Tomorrow is a better day is my philosophy,” said Sanger when asked the secret to her longevity. “I definitely have an opinion of my own and I grant everyone else the same right.”