Life near the racetrack ideal for longtime racehorse owners

By Julie Sarno

Bill Currin’s life has established a new rhythm. Bill used to train the horses he owned. He and his wife, Betty, returned to Los Angeles each year following the race meet to their beloved West Hollywood home, once owned by Clark Gable. After encountering a major health problem, Currin chose to retool his life, slow down and settle year-round in this area, near the racetrack the couple loves so dearly.

“I’m known as the Senor of the race track and Senor of Scripps,” quipped Currin, now 76, referring to the medical facility which gave him the life-saving heart operation. He and his wife bought a summer home in Del Mar 35 years ago. A few years ago, they sold the first home and bought a larger one in which they now live. Currin says of the new location: “I can sit in my living room window and see if someone is sitting in my box at Del Mar.”

They have fond memories of summers in Del Mar, enjoying the beach and the summer race meet when their son, Patrick, and daughter, Jamie, were young. Patrick is now an attorney in Pleasanton and Jamie lives in Portland, Oregon.

Currin, whose speech still has traces of a Southern accent, was born in North Carolina. At 19, he moved from Oxford, North Carolina to Los Angeles to become a movie star: “Originally, I came out here under contract to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They were starting a school to teach young actors.”

Currin lived at the famed Chateau Marmont, which features luxury bungalows reminiscent of old Hollywood. The desire to earn a living soon brought the aspiring actor back to reality.

“I needed to eat,” said Currin, “So I learned how to build houses.”

Local resident Bill Currin, with his 3-year-old stakes winner, My Best Brother. Photo/Julie Sarno

Currin’s career as a developer was a lot more successful than his career in front of the camera. He built homes in La Mesa, El Centro, Blythe, Calexico and Pleasanton, Calif., among others. His success as a developer enabled him to pursue his interest in horses. Over the years, Currin has had great success as an owner-trainer with major winners Outta Here, Memorette and Stormello.

“Once Del Mar closes, my horses ship to Rancho Paseana (in Rancho Santa Fe),” said Currin. “When my young horses come in, they are broke there. I go over and watch them and make the major decisions. They are under the care of Cliff Sise, farm manager at Rancho Paseana.”

Currin owns My Best Brother with longtime partner Alvin Eisman. The 3-year-old bay colt won the second division of the Oceanside Stakes on Del Mar’s Opening Day and finished second in the G2 La Jolla Handicap on August 11, a 1 1/16-mile race on Turf.

“My Best Brother is very happy,” said Currin, watching the colt while at trainer Julio Canani’s barn at Del Mar. “He’s very sound. He does not like horses in front of him. I don’t like horses in front of him either.”

Currin believes My Best Brother is as good as his full brother Stormello. Both were sired by Stormy Atlantic. They are out of the Carson City mare Wilshewed. Currin hopes My Best Brother will be even better at a distance. Stormello, considered one of the top 2-year-olds of 2006, also raced for Currin and Eisman and was trained by Currin.

At age 2, Stormello won the Hollywood Futurity (G1) and the Norfolk Stakes (G2). He finished third in the Del Mar Futurity. At 3, he finished second by a nose in the Florida Derby (G1). Retired to stud in Kentucky with earnings of $700,100, Stormello died at age 7 in 2011 as a result of complications from colic.

Currin fondly recalled another runner he trained, Memorette. Currin trained the filly, who raced for his wife, Betty.

“I had not done my Christmas shopping one year,” began Currin. “I did not have time to go to the jewelry store. So I told my wife, ‘Just go and pick out a horse.’ The one she picked out was Memorette.”

Memorette won four races, finished second six times and was third eight times from 32 starts over four full seasons of racing. Her victories included the G2 Beverly Hills Handicap and the Fran’s Valentine Stakes. She was retired in January of her 6-year-old season with earnings of $896,753. She is boarded at Cathy Parke’s Valkyre Stud in Georgetown, Kentucky, with the Currin’s other broodmares.

Currin recalls winning the first Delta Downs Jackpot with Outta Here in 2002. Two-year-old Outta Here was shipped to the Vinton, Louisiana track. Currin had the advantage of Louisiana native and Racing Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux riding for him. “Kent had all his relatives there. We won and we all celebrated. I will never forget it. The purse was $500,000 then.”

Outta Here also was co-owned with Eisman. At three, Outta Here finished fourth in Dubai’s UAE Derby (G2) and then finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby. He also raced in Japan.

“We travelled a lot with our horses,” recalled Currin. “When you go for the big money, you travel a lot. Don’t want to brag. We’ve been very fortunate.”