07/24/2013 4:22PM

Jay Hovdey: Two groups converge at Del Mar for one good cause


Anything for a good cause, right?

Two years ago, James Jablon spent a month in a lion’s cage in Hernando, Fla., and raised $160,000 for wildlife research in the process. He referred to his several superficial wounds as “only a scratch.”

In a similar spirit, Melbourne’s Nick le Souef settled into a pet shop window display along with 400 deadly spiders and lived there for three weeks, emerging with pledges of $16,000 for a children’s charity and a healthy fear of anything with eight legs.

In 2001, the blind climber Erik Weihenmayer scaled Mount Everest, racking up thousands in contributions for charities serving the sightless community. Over the next decade he completed the circuit of climbing the Seven Summits, the highest points on each of the continents, with his charities along for the ride.

Then there was Joe Cooper, a working man from the English midlands who thought the best way to step up and help raise funds for the Leicester Royal Infirmary was to allow himself to be bikini-waxed in places where the sun should never shine. Was it worth the $5,000 he raised? Joe said it was.

Nothing quite so traumatic will be asked of the 16 men and women who are donating their time and recognizable reputations to Saturday night’s event in Del Mar that will raise money for two noteworthy organizations.

The Kentucky-based Race for Education and the California-based Edwin J. Gregson Foundation row very much in the same direction, dedicated to the proposition that the families of the people who perform the hands-on care of Thoroughbred racehorses and breeding stock should have a crack at the best possible lives that advanced schooling can provide. They have temporarily merged their fundraising efforts with a cooperative event.

The Gregson Foundation has been in operation since 2000, while the Race for Education was founded in 2003. Between them, they have helped upward of 500 young people through a variety of scholarship programs, filling a gap in the racing industry’s sometimes spotty record of benevolent outreach. The vast majority of the Race for Education’s scholarship winners go on to some kind of veterinary programs, while the students assisted by the Gregson Foundation have found careers in a wide variety of professions. Either way, they are getting help that was not there before.

Brandi Goode, one of the Gregson scholarship winners, earned her degree in Animal Science and completed the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona. It was not part of the deal, but there she is, listed among the Suave Sixteen up for auction. Anything for a good cause.

Jenine Sahadi, who trained the winners of two Breeders’ Cups and the Santa Anita Derby, is president of the Gregson Foundation.

“Our hosts and auctioneers will be Trevor Denman and Frank Mirahmadi,” Sahadi said. “Don’t worry – if Frank does his Trevor imitation you’ll still be able to tell them apart. The point is to come and have a good time, some laughs, and support the efforts of these two organizations.”

Sahadi, who is single, will not be among the offerings. Come on, what else would you call them? You can’t insult these people. Get a load of this catalog.

For those who fancy the exotic, there is Ireland’s Carl O’Callaghan, or, if you’re picky, England’s Jack Sisterson and Zoe Cadman. O’Callaghan is a trainer who doubles as a tavern crooner and DJ (ladies, he can do the Michael Buble). Sisterson is an assistant trainer and a close personal friend of Lava Man, for what that’s worth. Cadman, one of HRTV’s popular talents, was an accomplished jockey who once worked for Michael Dickinson, which at the very least means she speaks fluent Klingon.

You can bid for an evening with Mike Smith, just keep your hands off his plate. Samantha Siegel, also cataloged, might buy a round for the house if one of her horses wins that day. Jeffrey Strauss, the man behind the Pamplemousse Grille, always seems to step up for such a cause. Win him, and he might name a sauce after you.

Judy McCarron, the Hall of Famer’s ex, could sell her winning bidder a house if they’re not careful, while a candlelit pick-five seminar comes with the winning bid for handicapping ace Christian Hellmers and TVG’s all-star analyst Paul LoDuca.

As for backstretch flavor, there’s exercise rider and assistant trainer Tessa Bisha, and trainers Brian Koriner and Carla Gaines, who can whisper their Breeders’ Cup winning secrets if the mood’s right.

Did I forget the Peruvian Picador, Julio Canani? No, not on purpose. Canani is the racetrack’s version of Jack Sparrow, as played by Benecio del Toro – cryptic, bearded, and mumbling in an accent of no particular origin. The winning bidder may learn how on earth Canani won three Breeders’ Cup races and a Santa Anita Handicap when they were all such “a surprise,” and how he was not only the inspiration for the Turo Escalante character in “Luck,” but also for Fred C. Dobbs in “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” Thomas Moore in “A Man for All Seasons,” and Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind.”

And what would a date night auction of human flesh be without a couple of beauty, em, I mean talent queens? The charities will benefit from the presence of both Tatiana Schoeppler, the Stronach Group’s Ms. Racing Queen 2013, and the host track’s Miss Cougar Del Mar 2013, who will be crowned the day before after a rigorous selection process.

The craziness will commence at 7 p.m. Saturday, across the street from the racetrack at the Hilton Del Mar. I have been assured there will be cocktails, which never hurts. Tickets for the show are a hundred bucks. Bidding on the 16 is optional, but could be memorable. Of the anythings people will do for charity, this one is easy.