Interview: Jeff Bloom of Bloom Racing Stable
Local thoroughbred owners prefer to take a horse to Del Mar.
A little more than a century ago, horse-racing was the second most popular sport in the United States, behind only Major League baseball. But when Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brian opened the Del Mar Racetrack in 1937, the popularity of horse-racing had reached an all-time low. No one even knew how long the facilities would endure. More than 60 years later, the racetrack stands as one of San Diego’s most notable landmarks. It is an integrated part of our city’s identity. And starting this month, horse fever takes hold of San Diego.
Average attendance at the races for the last decade is more than one million visitors per year—a third of the entire population of San Diego. Most go simply to see and be seen. A select few, however, hold a much greater stake in the events.
Jeff Bloom recently threw his hat into the game of horse ownership—but he is no novice. Although he had no family history or prior experience in the sport, the former jockey claims he knew his fate on his first visit to Del Mar: “The second I walked into that place, I knew then and there that that was what I wanted to do.”
Arrangements were soon made for the young Bloom, then 14 years old, to train at the San Luis Rey Downs, an auxiliary training track in Bonsall. It is common practice for aspiring jockeys to leave their home for several years to shadow a pro or an expert.
“It’s not very formalized,” Bloom says of the training. “Most jockeys learn at a farm, but there was a guy who took me in and trained me to be a jockey.” By age 17, Bloom was ready to go professional, and continued competing for nine straight years.
Since then, Bloom recently launched his own company, Bloom Racing Stable LLC, and owns and manages six different horses. His horses compete in the Del Mar Races yearly.
“We’re just kind of building up,” Bloom says, having only been in the game a few years, “but Majestic City, one of ours, was one of the top-rated two year olds nationally.”
Even after meeting with some early success, Bloom acknowledges that thoroughbred ownership is a labor of love.
“Everyone will tell you horse-racing is for the lifestyle of it,” he explains. “It’s a tough business model. Kind of like being the owner of a sports franchise.”
The biggest obstacle for an owner to overcome, according to Bloom, is impatience. With horses getting injured regularly and the process of training being naturally time-consuming and laborious, it can come as quite a heartbreak to see a horse lose. But Bloom maintains that “whether you are talking about a horse running in a big or a small race, when you see your horse finish first, it’s an amazing feeling.”
If winning anywhere is exhilarating, then winning at Del Mar touches on the sublime. “San Diego is a paradise for racing horses,” Bloom says. “You’ve got the best trainers, best jockeys, biggest purses. Del Mar will always be the best racetrack in the country. For most jockeys it’s like a working vacation.”
The Del Mar races are by nature much different than other tracks in SoCal. Jon Lindo, local horse owner and handicapper, sums up the differences well. “Del Mar is unique because it is just seven weeks a year in San Diego,” Lindo explains. “With year-round racing in Los Angeles, you lose some of the excitement of going to the races on a day-in, day-out basis.”
The brevity of the season lends itself to a more festive environment as well. “Everything stops in San Diego on opening day,” Lindo says. “It really becomes a seven-week party where you run into everyone you know.” Lindo has been owning and racing horses since 1986. Currently, he has eight horses in training with Bill Spawr. Like Bloom, Lindo believes success in thoroughbred ownership is largely contingent on being patient.
“Patience” and “being realistic” are his key phrases, which he claims are even more necessary “while the bills are running.”
“It doesn’t matter if you have $80,000 invested in a horse and that they can only win, for example, at the $25,000,” he says of managing horses, “Better to win and generate the purse earning than continue to get beat.”
In addition to supervising his own stable, Lindo also works as a handicapper for the North County Times. Apparently, handicapping, or predicting the winners, is much more an art than a science.
“There’s so much to it,” Lindo says. “You start with simple things like pace, and then figure out who’s going to be in the lead, try and figure out which horses are good on grass and which on turf, and then look at pedigree.”
The list of considerations is so long, and the number of confounding variables so high, that handicappers are compelled to manage what to most might seem like an impossible task. But Lindo insists that, in the end, “We’re just trying to figure out when a horse is right for a place.”
Like handicapping, horse ownership is also an art, equally blessed and plagued by a series of variables. And that’s what we love most about our yearly horse fever.