SoCal Horse Racing Legend: J. Paco Gonzalez

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

July 22nd, 2015

Some might consider 1997 a watershed year for horse racing. The reason is because that was the year that Bob Baffert, American Pharoah's trainer, burst onto the scene with a horse named Silver Charm. Silver Charm came achingly close to winning the Triple Crown, losing to Touch Gold in the Belmont Stakes. Horseplayers have debated hours on end why Silver Charm lost the Belmont. I believe it's because he thought that he had won after he put away Paco Gonzalez's horse, Free House, in the stretch. Silver Charm and Free House were rivals. By the time Silver Charm saw Chris McCarron aboard Touch Gold, it was too late for the Baffert trainee to react.

I had my own debate this week. I wondered if I should just concentrate on Paco's horses and not worry so much about the man. Paco is a trainer who never cared much for the spotlight. You won't find any pictures of J. Paco Gonzalez on social media. Forget about touching base with Paco on LinkedIn. He only trained horses for Trudy McCaffrey and John Toffan. Then, when Trudy passed away, he only trained for John and John's wife Cheryl. The last article about Paco, and it's a good one, DRF's Jay Hovdey wrote in 2012. There's been nothing about J. Paco Gonzalez since then. Do your own search on Google. The last race that Paco won was in 2012 according to Equibase. One can only assume that Paco is retired now and he failed to announce it to the world.

It makes sense. The man born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1945 is an old school horseman. He trained horses because it was a passion of his. He never went to the University of Arizona or study the business of horse racing at another graduate program. He was a craftsman. He designed war ships out of horses that others might have thought were dingy's. Mane Minister, Free House, Came Home, who else could have turned these equines into champions? What about Bosque Redondo?  The son of Mane Minister ran only 17 times. Paco was so adept at not only training Bosque Redondo but also placing Bosque Redondo in races where he could be successful that the horse won 6 out of 17 and finished second 5 other times. That's 11 out of 17 either first or second. Bosque Redondo's biggest win was the 2002 San Bernardino Handicap. That's the same year that Came Home won the Pacific Classic as a three-year-old.

J. Paco Gonzalez saddled 2,530 horses in races. He won 399 of those races. His horses finished second 327 times. His horses finished third 295 times. That's 40% in the money. The win percentage is 15.77%. In 1999, Paco's horses won 26 out of 81 races for a 32% win percentage. His in the money percentage that year was an incredible 53%. This is for a horseman that only trained for the duo of Trudy McCaffrey and John Toffan his entire career. He didn't get to pick the best of the best. He had to build his Ferrari's from what Trudy and John gave him. Bien Bien, who finished second to Kotashaan in the 1993 Breeders' Cup Turf, sired Beinamdo who became a multiple stakes winner. That's how it was with Paco, Trudy and John. They were a family.

I'm not sure what the requirements are to get into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. To me, whatever those requirements are, J. Paco Gonzalez should qualify. There isn't another trainer that I can think of that did more with less in the history of the Sport of Kings. Maybe we can all get together and get Paco into the hall of fame. Oh, and if anybody has a picture of Paco, post it in the comment section if you think he'd be okay with it.