GREGSON BANNER

2006
Edwin J. Gregson Foundation
Grant Recipients

Michael R. Ascanio

Michael has contributed to the California racetrack industry in various positions. This young man has already developed an extensive background in horseracing, working for internationally acclaimed trainer Robert Frankel and prominent farrier Wes Champagne. He has also worked as a clocker for Hollywood Park.

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Michael has contributed to the California racetrack industry in various positions. This young man has already developed an extensive background in horseracing, working for internationally acclaimed trainer Robert Frankel and prominent farrier Wes Champagne. He has also worked as a clocker for Hollywood Park.

He is a promising horseman and has achieved an exceptional amount of equine knowledge through his enthusiasm and exceptional effort. The Gregson Foundation assisted Michael to attend Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School in Sacramento, CA, pursuing his career goal of becoming a farrier.

Father of Michael, Humberto Ascanio, was born in Jalisco, Mexico. In 1969 at the age of 18, he started his career in horse racing as a hot walker for Farrell Jones, one of the great trainers in Western racing. He next moved to the Buster Millerick barn, legendary trainer of Native Diver, famous for winning the Hollywood Park Gold Cup three consecutive times. In 1973, he started grooming for trainer Robert Frankel, a then rising industry star.

Frankel was in a fix in 1975. His assistant trainers had quit him. In desperation, maybe a subconscious leap of faith, he asked Humberto to run his barn. Thirty-two years later, the assistant trainer chosen in a pinch, receives constant praise and credit from Frankel for helping him achieve his numerous industry successes, such as induction into the Racing Hall of Fame; winner of five Eclipse Awards; surpassing Charlie Whittingham’s record of 689 wins in 2007 at Santa Anita; milestone 3,000th win in 2004, holder of all-time record in earnings in 2003; four Breeders’ Cup wins. The triumphs are many, earned through champions such as Ghostzapper, Intercontinental, Squirtle Squirt, Milwaukee Brew, Bertrando, Price Tag, and, of course, champion assistant trainer Humberto.

Jose Roberto "Bobby" Ochoa

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Bobby is attending Cal Poly Pomona, majoring in Animal Sciences. Also working in the Jerry Fanning barn at Santa Anita, Bobby tells us, "I have always been around horses since both my parents work in the horse racing industry. I want to get a degree where I can use my knowledge of horses." He adds confidently, "I plan to do well in the future, help out my parents, and live the American Dream."

Bobby is not the first member of his family to receive a grant from the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation. In 2001, brother Juan was assisted with a scholarship to attend Citrus College to study computer science and electronics. Making a career change since then, Juan has developed into a top Southern California rider. In 2006, Juan finished fourth at the Hollywood Park spring/summer meet behind Victor Espinoza, Patrick Valenzuela, and Martin Garcia.

Jose and Gregoria Ochoa, parents of Bobby and Juan, both came to the United States from Jalisco, Mexico, during the ‘70’s. Encouraged by family members already working in racing, they immediately accepted jobs offers in the California horse racing circuit.

Gregoria tells us that she, at one time, left the track for two months to try out another job, but quickly returned because she so missed the horses and industry that she had become accustomed. She has worked for trainers Lester Holt, Joe Manzi, Mike Smith, Mary Lou Tuck, and Charlie Whittingham. Jose has worked for trainers Gary Jones and Joe Manzi. Notably, he groomed Fran’s Valentine and Saros Brig.

Both Juan and Gregoria currently groom horses for veteran trainer Jerry Fanning, Jose for more than twelve years and Gregoria, now the barn foreman, for more than fifteen years. Recent top horses in the Fanning barn include Crimson Look, Fortunate Event, and Timely Expression.

Lyssa H. Ortega

A high school honors student in World History and Economics, Lyssa is now attending Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. This 3.9 GPA student’s new major field of study is English.

"I care tremendously about the world and its many denizens," says Lyssa. "Receiving the Gregson scholarship grant has greatly helped me to continue my education and to fulfill my desire to be of aid to others."

Lyssa’s father, Luis Ortega, began his career as a successful jockey in his native country of Panama. Moving to the United States, he won his first race in1978. His career was slowed due to injuries, so when Luis decided to hang up his whip as a jockey, he had a total of 1,824 mounts, was 22% in the money, with total winnings of $2,383,385.

Luis is now an exercise rider in the Southern California racing circuit. His former employers include prominent trainers Neil Drysdale, Robert Frankel, and Richard Mandella. For the last six years, Luis has been working for veteran trainer Dan Hendricks. Notable horses Luis has helped condition from the Hendricks’ barn are Reba’s Gold, Feverish, and Brother Derek, winner of the 2006 Santa Anita Derby which lead to a fourth-place finish in the 2006 Kentucky Derby.

Francisco Rangel

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Our next exceptional grant recipient is Francisco Rangel. Nancy has concurrently attended classes in high school and West Los Angeles College since ninth grade. Among her many classes, she was also layout editor and writer of the high school newspaper, worked the past two years at a law firm gaining experience in the legal profession, and also interned at Northrop Grumman. Besides challenging herself academically, Nancy is committed to helping educate others, especially young women, regarding domestic violence. She fulfills this commitment through volunteer work at Break the Cycle, a nonprofit organization offering education and free legal assistance to those caught in such turmoil.

Francisco is a first generation graduate from high school, as well as a college bound student. He has successfully overcome any barriers faced by many first-year college students, as well as students who are the first in their family to attend a university. A student of Cal State Northridge, Francisco is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Sociology.



"I want to become a leader or mentor for my community," says Francisco. "I want to make my family and myself proud. I am the eldest of five children, so I need to set an example for my siblings because I want them to succeed."

Miguel Ruelas, Francisco’s father, was born in Pihuamo, Jalisco, Mexico. In 1980, he came to America looking for work, it didn’t matter what kind. His older brother had a job at Hollywood Park, so he found his way there. He was lucky to find big brother the very next day after he arrived. Having experience with horses, Miguel immediately started grooming for legendary trainer Willard Proctor. In 1984, he began work with trainer David Bernstein and has been employed by him ever since. Notable horses he has groomed are Stall Creek, The Wicked North, and Cal-bred sprinter Unfurl the Flag, winner of the 2005 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Mayra Salermon

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Mayra is attending Pasadena City College taking courses that would enable her to become a physical therapist. She is also considering pursing the profession of registered nurse. "One of my greatest hopes is to be able to help children who are physically disadvantaged," says Mayra. "I consider myself to be a hard worker, as well as an honest person. I have decided to continue my education in order to improve myself and be an asset to society."

Born in Guerrero, Mexico, Mayra came to California at age ten with her mother, Maria Zuniga. Step father Baltazar Fernandez was born in Guatemala, and started work at Santa Anita through the help of a cousin already working at the track.

A talented exercise rider, Baltazar had worked the Southern California racing circuit for ten years before Maria joined him at Santa Anita to work as a groom. Their entire careers in horse racing have quite remarkably been under the sole employ of trainer John Sadler.

"I think the world of Maria and Baltazar. They are unbelievably good people and incredibly good workers, who are completely dedicated. Mayra’s parents are great, and I really treasure them," glowingly expressed Sadler.

Baltazar lists Our New Recruit, Hombre Rapido, and Dr. Park among the many prominent horses he has helped condition out of the Sadler barn.

Angel Solorzano

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Angel is attending Los Angeles City College, taking general courses in preparation to transfer to Cal State Los Angeles. There he will pursue obtaining a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice. It is his ultimate goal to become a parole or probation officer. "I want to help troubled kids and work to redirect them to achieve more productive, healthy lifestyles," says Angel.

Luis Solorzano

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Luis is an English major taking courses at El Camino College, East Los Angeles College, and Santa Monica City College. He is going wherever necessary in order to accelerate completion of all necessary requirements that will enable him to transition to a university of choice.

Luis says, "I am a determined student and want go as far as I can in life. My parents have given me the opportunity to dream and the potential to become what they couldn’t."

Jose Luis Solorzano is father of both Angel and Luis, Jr. He comes from the small pueblo of Pihuamo, in Jalisco, Mexico, where he worked farming corn fields in his youth, then helped build highways for a mineral company.

At age 22, he came to work the Southern California racing circuit at the invitation of family members who were established employees of the industry. He began as a hot walker for Farrell Jones in 1969, then later worked for Farrell’s son, Gary, in a stable that included stellar horses Best Pal and Kastroma. Continuing with the Joneses, Jose has now worked 15 years with third generation Martin Jones, grooming horses such as El Don, Thiefsoffire, Cousin Joe, and Bilo.

Daniel Valenzuela

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A freshman at Cal State Fullerton, Daniel is majoring in Business Administration. Highly involved in sports during his entire four years at La Salle High School in Arcadia, CA, he was a member of the varsity soccer and volleyball team, as well played JV basketball and JV golf. A conscientious student, he served his local community working with the Special Olympics, was a coordinator or the Adopt-a-Family program, and helped tutor elementary school students.

Daniel’s father is Albino C. "AC" Valenzuela. It is appropriate to say that his family’s lineage is that of racing royalty. Uncle Ismael "Milo" Valenzuela was winner of the 84th Kentucky Derby with Tim Tam and the 94th Running of the Roses with Forward Pass. He was also regular rider of Kelso, the highest winning earner of his time. Albino senior was a jockey in the 50’s, having a great career in the New York racing circuit. Uncle Angel Valenzuela was also a successful rider in the Garden State. AC is big brother to jockey Patrick Valenzuela, winner of the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Sunday Silence, holder of seven Breeders’ Cup victories, as well as numerous other riding titles.

AC started his own career as a jockey in 1975 in the Southwestern racing circuit. An exercise rider since 1980, he has worked mainly for trainers D. Wayne Lukas, Robert Frankel, Darrell Vienna, Howard Zucker, and currently with Peter Eurton. Horses he has helped condition are Terlingua, Island Whirl, Great Lady M, Muttering, Miss Huntington, Simply Majestic, Ruhlmann, and Crafty C.T.









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