Solana Beach couple share enthusiasm for equines

Most jockeys live in the Los Angeles area and rent a place locally during the summer meet at Del Mar. For years, jockey Joe Steiner has owned a residence in Solana Beach. Now with two race meets at Del Mar, he can enjoy the comforts of home without long commutes for an additional month.

Steiner and his wife, Dagmar Galleithner Steiner, enjoy the North County lifestyle. “It’s a blessing to be here. It’s such a great place to live,” said Steiner.

He and Dagmar, an artist, married on April 17, 2013. Dagmar grew up in a small town in Bavaria but had lived in the United States when her father, a flight test engineer, was at Edwards Air Force Base/NASA. She and Joe met in 2011 at Santa Anita Park, while Dagmar was at the track, pursuing her work as an equine artist. She has painted horses since 1996. Her current project is a series of images for Old Friends, a nonprofit Thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky.

This past summer, Dagmar Steiner received a prestigious commission. She was asked to paint Shared Belief, the 2014 winner of the $1 Million Pacific Classic (G1), Del Mar’s premier race. Each year, an artist is commissioned to paint the winner, and the paintings hang in a hallway on the first floor of the track’s Clubhouse. How did she win the commission?

“During the races, I spend time with Chris Applin in the the track barbershop,” she said. “One day, Joe Harper (track president and CEO) came in, and I showed him paintings I was doing for Old Friends. The next thing I knew, I had the commission. It’s a huge honor. I still pinch myself every day.”

She prefers pencil and pastels for her work “because you can show so much detail without the drying time.” While she has spent much time recently depicting horses, she also enjoys portraying dogs and people.

Her husband’s schedule gives Dagmar, who studied architecture and art history, time to focus on her work. In addition to his work as a jockey in the afternoons, Joe Steiner also shows up in the mornings to work horses for trainers. Many trainers stable year-round at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, so he drives there to work horses once or twice each week. In racehorse lingo, a “work” approximates the speed of a race and is considerably faster than a “gallop.” Many trainers have jockeys, rather than exercise riders, work their horses.

Joe Steiner has a jockey agent, Michele Martinez, in Los Angeles, which helps him keep in touch with Santa Anita-based trainers. For morning obligations, Joe gets up early.

“I leave Solana Beach at 5:30 a.m. and arrive at Santa Anita in plenty of time to work horses at 7:45 a.m.,” said Steiner. He also drives to San Luis Rey Training Center near Fallbrook, where trainer Clifford Sise has about 30 horses. According to Steiner, Peter Miller, leading trainer at the recently concluded Del Mar fall meeting, has 60 horses there. Miller tied for the lead with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer during the longer summer race meet.

Joe Steiner decided he wanted to be a jockey when he was 5. “I’d watch my uncle (his mother’s brother), and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’” Both his grandfather and uncle were named Jack Leonard, and both were jockeys.

Steiner rode his first winner, Hillside Ruler, at Del Mar in 1981. He was hoping to ride his 1,000th winner at the seaside track during the meet which closed on Nov. 30, but finished the race meet with his career victories totaling 998. He plans to ride at the Los Alamitos meet, which opened Dec. 3, followed by the Santa Anita race meet, opening Dec. 26.

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