Susana is currently attending Citrus College in Glendora, CA, studying Criminal Justice. She is exploring career opportunities within the justice system, leaning toward forensic science.
In 1979, Susana's father, Jose Ayon, left Jalisco, Mexico, to California. He was 16. Family friend and now trainer Salvador Gonzalez brought Ayon to Santa Anita, transitioning his work experience from farm horses and cattle to the exciting world of thoroughbreds.
Ayon has also worked with trainers Mike Orman, Ron Ellis, Mike Harte, Robert Hundley, Blane Schvandeveldt, grooming such horses as LAKE GEORGE, AMBIVALENT, TO BE OR NOT, and PRINCESS V. He currently works for trainer Mike Puhich as groom for ICY RIDGE, SMART CROATIAN, and POPSA YANKEE.
We are delighted to report that during 2005 holiday festivities at Santa Anita Park for backstretch personnel, the Ayon family won by raffle a new Dell Computer/printer system contributed by the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation.
Karen is attending Eastern Kentucky University, majoring in Criminal Justice to become a police officer. She states that, "I would become the first person in my family to attend college, and it means a lot to me and my family. I hope that by going to college I can become someone truly instrumental in this country and make my mom proud."
Parent Gabriel Escalona is currently an exercise rider, working the Northern California racing circuit. He does not see his family in Kentucky, but his continuing occupation in the California thoroughbred industry has enabled daughter Karen to participate in the Gregson Foundation scholarship program, facilitating her pursuit of her educational goals.
Veronica was a member of the JROTC throughout attendance of Monroe High School in North Hills. She commanded a company of 60 cadets, and was responsible for training, counseling, and mentoring. She also served as commander of the Rifle Team and female Color Guard and has been a member of the All-City Academic Achievement Team, All-City Rifle Team, and All-City Best Platoon. Attending the School for Advanced Studies, Esparza was honored in Chemistry, English, Biography, and World and US History.
This very disciplined, involved, and active student is now attending Los Angeles Valley College, while holding a part-time job. Her major is linguistics, which she is pursuing in order to become a Federal Court or FBI translator.
Veronica's father, Joel M. Esparza, was age 15 when he left his home in Zacatecas, Mexico, for Santa Anita. He began work as a hot walker for trainer Ron McAnally, a job that grew into 16 years of service. He later worked for trainers AT Doyle, Tom Pratt, and Laz Barrera. He is now barn foreman for Lewis Cenicola, and has been employed by him for over 18 years.
Joel is a second generation thoroughbred backstretch worker. His father before him worked in racing until retirement, thereafter returning to his homeland of Zacatecas, Mexico.
Notable horses that Joel has worked with are SAVANNAH SLEW, who beat LADY'S SECRET twice, and AUSPICIANTE, who won the Ramona Handicap at Del Mar under jockey Patrick Valenzuela.
Our next exceptional grant recipient is Nancy Lopez. 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.
This 4.21 GPA honor roll student received acceptance letters from UC San Diego, UCLA, and UC Davis, but held out for final acceptance to her first choice of UC Berkeley. Nancy is majoring in Political Science at Berkeley, working towards a degree in law.
Jockey friends in Peru's Hipodromo de Monte Rico sparked the interest of Nancy's father, Willie Lopez, to join their profession. Born in Lima, Peru, he started his career in horseracing at age 14. As a jockey, he also rode in Panama and Columbia before coming to California in 1987. The jockey colony initially proved too competitive, and he temporarily moved to Seattle, taking mounts there that assisted a successful return to California in 1988.
A full-time exercise rider since 1998, Willie has worked for veteran trainers Gary Jones, D. Wayne Lukas, and is currently with Marty Jones. AurietTe, APOLLO, Cool Air, Lakeway, Kostroma, Latin AmericaN, 1995 Hollywood Park Turf Sprint World Record holder Pembroke are a few horses Lopez has helped condition.
Melissa was raised in Tijuana, B.C., Mexico. Immigrating to the US with her mother in 2000, she joined her father in California, thereafter completing her high school education at Hawthorne High. She is now attending El Camino Community College, taking courses to become a school teacher of young children.
Melissa says, "I am dedicated to study and work. I am responsible and consider myself a perfectionist, having earned a GPA of 3.7 because I believed in hard work to facilitate my graduation."
Saul Marquez is currently assistant trainer to his uncle Alfredo Marquez. He began his career in horse racing as a hot walker at the age of 15 at Agua Caliente racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico. He followed Alfredo, working for him in the Northern California racing circuit for a few years, before settling in Southern California. Prominent horses in the Marquez stable have been Oak Leaf Stake's winner TALI'SLUCKYBUSRIDE and IRGUNS ANGEL, winner of the A Gleam Handicap.
Denisse is attending Pasadena City College pursuing Business Administration as her major. Dedicated and determined, she has made the Honor Roll all years that she attended Monrovia High School, played in freshman and JV basketball, and also served as a member of both AVID, a school club promoting higher education, and UNIDOS, a scholarship club.
"Both of my parents had a rough life growing up in Baja California, Mexico," says Denisse. "Due to financial problems, they couldn't continue their schooling. Nothing would make my dad happier than seeing me go to college because I would be the first generation to go. Knowing about my parents' past has made me a stronger person and has helped set my priorities of what has to be done."
Denisse's father, Jose Angel Ontiveros, started his career as a hot walker at age 13 at Tijuana's Agua Caliente racetrack. He quickly developed his riding skills and was a jockey by age 16. In 1989, he switched careers to that of an exercise rider in the mornings, and added pony rider as an occupation on race day afternoons. He has worked for trainers John Sadler, Ron Ellis, Jim Cassidy, and is presently employed by Bob Hess, Jr. Prominent horses he has exercised are FROST FREE, VALIANT PETE, CORBY, BLUE PRINT, and CHINESE DRAGON.
Michael is currently attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He is taking courses in Computer Science, and is considering possibly majoring in the field of Computer Engineering. Michael is a dedicated and hard-working student that enjoys learning. He attended San Marcos High School, taking difficult and demanding Advanced Placement courses in Computer Science, and challenging Advanced Placement English courses. Michael says, "I want to get a degree and job in the computer industry. I think that even if college did not offer a degree, I would still go to learn about computers."
Sarah's academic career is quite astonishing, excelling in her total of 26 semesters of honors and advanced placement work, leading her to achieve a 4.46 GPA at graduation. Received letters of recommendation from Sarah's educators tell of a quite exceptional individual, highly-esteemed for her keen intelligence and ability. Her strengths and main interests are in English and Literature, but she truly excelled in all academic fields taken, receiving the Academic Achievement Award, Chemistry Academic Achievement Award, Governor's Scholarship, Silver Scholars, and California Scholarship Foundation Award. Sarah is now attending UC Berkeley, majoring in English.
Michael and Sarah's mom, Mary Panian, is an exercise rider of over 13 years. During the "70's & "80's, she worked for legendary trainer Charlie Whittingham and was known as one of his famed "Charlie's Angels," galloping and working countless of his barn horses. Mary is now based in San Luis Rey Downs. She was the exercise rider for LADY GEORGE, awarded the 2001 California Juvenile Filly of the Year, trained by Tony Locke and owned by Gordon Severson.
Mary expresses her sincere thanks to all of the generous contributors assisting with her children's educational goals.
Tania has served as a tutor in the Migrant Education Tutoring Assistance Program for Baldwin Park Unified School District for children grades 1 to 5. Currently a student of Chaffey College, she is taking general courses to determine a major.
Father David Perez was a student of Mexico City's Hipodromo de las Americas. There, he sustained a severe leg break, ending his career as a rider. At the time, his brothers were students of veterinarian Hector Prida, who taught veterinary medicine at the University of Mexico. Prida moved to Tijuana, B.C., Mexico, to work at Agua Caliente racetrack, and all the Perez brothers followed. Prida then moved to California, where the brothers followed, once again, and stayed for good.
In reaching California in 1985, David worked for trainer Warren Stute for two years, then moved to the Ron McAnally barn, where he has worked as a groom ever since. Perez helps prepare the younger thoroughbreds in the stable, handling such horses as FESTIN, NORTHERN SPUR, ARLUCEA, TIGHT SPOT, PASEANA, and MR. PURPLE.
Elizabeth is a student at Cal State Los Angeles, enrolled in courses that will enable her to become a child psychologist. "I am working to obtain a degree in Psycholgy, and hope to get my Masters' and doctorate degrees, as well," say Rangel. "I wish to focus on children in order to help bring out their best and evoke needed change to their lives."
Both of Elizabeth's parents, Miguel and Maria Rangel, are long-time employees of the California horse racing industry. Maria, from Guatemala, was a hot walker from 1978 through 1995. Her work was halted due to a heart condition, which ultimately lead to a successful heart transplant in 2004. Miguel is from Mexico City, where at age 12 he began his training at the famed Hipodromo de las Americas, the starting place of many jockeys and exercise riders. A jockey at Agua Caliente at age 16, in 1980 he came to California permanently to work as an exercise rider.
Prominent trainers Miguel has worked for include Martin Jones, D. Wayne Lukas, Tommy Doyle, John Sadler, and Warren Stute. He is now a freelance rider at Hollywood Park, working for such trainers as Jay Robbins and Bob Baffert. He proudly notes that he was regular exercise rider of MAGICAL MILE, who set a track record at Hollywood Park at a distance of 5 furlongs the first time it ran. He has also exercised horses GOGO, GREY MEMO, MISS NORMAN, PEACE NOW, as well as TICE, who is owned by Mike Pegram.
Jose is presently attending East Los Angeles College, taking general courses in preparation for transfer to UC Riverside to major in Business Administration. During his high school years, he was exceptional in mathematics as a student of Advanced Placement Calculus. He also excelled in Expository Composition and World Literature courses.
Jose Rodriguez, Sr. was born in Pihuamo, Jalisco, Mexico. At age 16, he joined his older brother, who was already working for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, in California. Lukas was instrumental in helping Rodriguez, Sr. obtain his passport and begin a long working relationship with him as a groom.
Rodriguez, Sr. has also worked for trainer Eoin Harty, and is presently grooming for the Bob Hess, Jr. barn.
Luis A. S.
Born in the USA, Luis was sent to his parents' homeland of Guatemala at age ten months to be cared for by relatives. Upon returning the America, he encountered many difficulties created by a language barrier, but through great determination, he achieved his academic goal of attending college. Luis is now a student at Cal Poly Pomona, majoring in Computer Science.
Trainer Darrell Vienna is the employer of Luis' parents, Jose Salazar and Paulina Cano. Darrel writes, "Luis' parents have worked for me for the past fifteen years. They have been excellent employees and have been invaluable to the success of many of my best horses." Vienna continues, "I have known Luis since he was very young — he has literally grown up in my shedrow. He also formally worked for me as a hot walker and groom. Over the years, I have found Luis to be a hard worker, ambitious and helpful. He is also responsible, and a good son to both of his parents. My association with the entire Salazar family has been a very positive one for sure."
Vienna barn horses cared for by the Salazar family include STAR PARADE, JANET, DISTURBINGTHEPEACE, ECHO EDDIE, JOEY FRANCO, and SUANCES.
Angela Ann V.
Angela is a conscientious, hard-working individual. She has proven herself to be an excellent student by receiving Dean's Honors at California Polytechnic University at Pomona. She has recently transferred to the University of Southern California, where her academic interests lie in the Marshall School of Business, majoring in Marketing/Advertising and Promotion, with a minor in Cinema/Television Production. Angela says, "I am taking my education very seriously as it sets the groundwork for what I will be doing for the rest of my life."
Angela'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.
Graduating Class of 2005
Melissa R. — Cal State Los Angeles — Philosophy
Ariana R. — UC Berkeley — Sociology
Yareli S. — Mount St. Mary's — Criminology/Sociology
To the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation & California Thoroughbred Trainers Board
I wanted to share with all of you my deepest and sincerest gratitude. You have assisted me in many ways and for that I THANK YOU! Your organization is extremely generous, and I hope that someday I can return the favor and donate to your wonderful efforts. I wanted to let all of you know that your scholarship has allowed me to continue my educational goals, and I am now enrolled in the Master's in English Program at CSULA. I have had the pleasure of continuing me education because of wonderful people like you. You made my undergraduate career a memorable one. Again, Thank You for all the support you have given my family and I. I enclosed a copy of my degree because it is as much a part of your organization as much as it was a part of my aspiration. It has represented what your organization stands for and what it is targeting to achieve. I wish only flourishing success upon the future of the Foundation and its recipients. I was very lucky to be a part of it!
CSULA Class of 2005