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Hovdey: Success as a family affair for Proctors, Dollases
By Jay Hovdey
Hap Proctor knows better than to take any credit for the run of good fortune his brother’s had at Del Mar this summer. The Tom Proctor stable, led by the horses of Leonard Lavin’s Glen Hill Farm, is on a giddy roll, winning with six of the first 14 starters it has sent forth, including Old Time Hockey in the La Jolla Handicap last weekend.
But as manager of the Glen Hill Farm operation in Ocala, currently in the midst of his annual trip to Del Mar, Hap at least has earned bragging rights as part of the team, a fact he concedes as only one Proctor would to another.
“Since I’ve been out here I’m telling everyone I’m Tom’s brother,” Hap said Wednesday morning at the barn. “Usually I just let them figure it out for themselves.”
About then Hap’s cellphone rang. It was Tom, calling from his frontside perch watching workouts. Hap knew it was his brother because of the customized ringtone: a Duane Allman guitar lick from “I’m No Angel.”
They’ve been brothers for 56 years, which is Tom’s age. Hap is 59, but they might as well be 18 and 15 all over again and getting into all manner of mischief – at least as mischief was defined in the early 1970s when they lived in the world dominated by their legendary father, Willard Lee Proctor.
W.L. Proctor was old school in the same sense the California redwoods are old growth. There really was no other way to train Thoroughbreds when Proc first walked his beat, and it always made sense to him. He began in 1933 and worked until his heart stopped while feeding a filly at Santa Anita in October of 1998, with time out only for service in the Pacific during World War II.
The elder Proctor trained horses like Convenience, Lovlier Linda, Gallant Romeo, Uniformity, Table Hands, Woozem, and Right Honorable, for patrons like Bull Hancock, Fritz Hawn, Ralph Lowe, J.B. Brown, Peter Brant, and Lavin, who latched onto W.L. in the mid-1960s and never let the family go. Given the continuity of the Glen Hill/Proctor connection – Lavin’s grandson Craig Bernick is now president – there never really should be any surprise when they hit on all cylinders, as they have this summer.
This coming weekend could fan the flames. On Friday, Customer Base will try to win her second race of the Del Mar meet in the Sandy Blue, an $85,000 overnight at a mile on the grass. Then on Saturday, Glen Hill Farm will be represented in the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park by Marketing Mix and in the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by Left a Message.
Marketing Mix, part of Proctor’s Midwestern string, enters the Beverly D. with consecutive wins in the Natalma and the Dance Smartly on the Woodbine grass, while Left a Message comes out of a sixth-place finish in the American Oaks to Lady of Shamrock, who is back in the Del Mar Oaks along with San Clemente winner Eden’s Moon.
Tom Proctor will be front and center at Arlington, leaving the Del Mar chores to his assistant, Aimee Dollase. If the name sounds familiar it should. The Dollase family has made more than its share of training history. Before he retired, Aimee’s father, Wally, won such prime events as the Travers (twice), the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, the Hollywood Derby, the Beldame, and the Woodbine Mile, while Aimee’s brother Craig numbers the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, the Met Mile, and the Hollywood Gold Cup among his accomplishments.
Aimee Dollase played key roles in the stables of both her father and brother and now, since March, she has been Tom Proctor’s right hand in California.
“I knew Tom’s father to say hello,” Aimee said during a brief break at the barn. “He was pretty intimidating. But the family we’ve known a long time. You always respected how they handled their horses.”
It would be hard for her to get used to anything but the best. During a delirious run from 2002 to 2005, Aimee traveled far and wide with her father’s string to win major stakes with Meteor Storm, Ten Most Wanted, Good Journey, and Bare Necessities. This is why she was not a very happy camper last year when Wally Dollase retired after being diagnosed with the rare neurological Lewy Body Disease, with its symptoms that mimic both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Aimee had no choice but to dip a toe into the water of a small public stable of her own, but for someone with such a handsome r é sum é , the opportunities were thin.
“You would think the world would be wide open to you,” she said, knowing better. “But that’s not the way it works. Hopefully it will be someday when I do decide to go on my own in a full-fledged way. But right now I’m just very happy to be in California with such a good stable and good people.”
Wally Dollase and his wife, Cincy, were at Del Mar last weekend from their Kentucky home to watch the Proctor stable shine, first with the imposing 2-year-old Midnight Ballet, who won her debut for Stoneway Farm, and then with Old Time Hockey in the La Jolla.
“Before I thought you were showing off,” Hap told Aimee in the flush of victory. “Now you’re just being greedy.”
As the colt returned, and Aimee went to greet him, Tom Proctor caught sight of her parents standing along the rail.
“C’mon,” the trainer said, gently touching Wally’s arm. “Get in that winner’s circle with your girl.”
Big T is one of the smartest and all around best horsemen in the world. Hes been everywhere and can train at any circuit in the country, GP, TAM, KEE, CD, AP, SAR, DELMAR and any where else he chooses to go. Confidence sometimes mascarades as cocky but make no mistake Tom is one of the nicest guys you'll ever know. I'm honored to call him a friend and bet that im pulling for him everytime even when we race against each other. Class all the way. You deserve all the credit Big Daddy good luck with the big filly sat...
Waly Dollase one of my favorite trainers of all time...Him and his A rider Nakatani won some nice races with some great horses...Best Turf trainer in SOCAL ever IMO!!!
Great story.Tom Proctor is an automatic bet for me
racing looks rigged..jockeys don't try one race and then they ride really hard the next..some jockeys don't even ride to the finish and then the late odds change as the winner always gets bet down.. someone is making a fortune betting at the top of the stretch.. is anyone policing the pari mutels ?
Love having the Proctors in town, they always put a smile on my face and I enjoy the heck out of talking to them. Worked for WL and he was one excellent horseman, so they learned from the best. Happy to see all the success they are experiencing!
Tom can train a horse with the best of them bar none. he's an excellent care giver an pretty dam good turf trainer as well. Good luck over the weekend big daddy an DOWN THE ROAD. ;)
Another great article from Jay , highlighting the positives of this business. Ive always thought Proctor was one of the best horsemen in the country. His horse always got good care and they performed on the track.
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