12/06/2013 3:56PM

Margaret Robbins, wife of California horseman Jack Robbins, dies at age 91


Margaret “Maggie” Robbins, the matriarch of one of California’s most noted racing families, died on Thursday night in her Rancho Santa Fe home with her husband, Dr. Jack Robbins, at her side after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 91.

Born Margaret Miller in Philadelphia, Pa., Maggie Robbins was a student at the University of Pennsylvania when she met an ambitious young man from California who was attending the veterinary school of medicine. Jack Robbins was working in the kitchen of the young Miss Miller’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house at the time.

“She was president of the sorority and I was waiting tables,” Dr. Robbins has said in one of many tellings. “She wasn’t paying any attention to me. So I spilled some soup in her lap.”

They were married in 1944 and settled in California, where Jack Robbins, now possessed of a veterinary degree, became one of the Thoroughbred circuit’s first full-time racetrack practitioners. As their family grew to four sons, the Robbinses moved to the San Fernando Valley, where Jack Robbins managed the Conejo Ranch of developer Ed Janss, and then to the Monterey peninsula, where he managed Laguna Seca Ranch for Frank and Connie Bishop, before returning to his racetrack practice in Southern California.

Together, Maggie and Jack Robbins bred and raced a number of stakes winning Thoroughbreds, usually in partnerships. Among them Guilton Madero, Honeys Gem, Cassaleria and Nostalgia’s Star.

The four Robbins boys grew up to be Jay Robbins, trainer of Horse of the Year and two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow; Don Robbins, former president of Hollywood Park; Dave Robbins, an attorney whose clients have included many racing interests; and Tom Robbins, vice president of racing for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

“Maggie gets all the credit for the boys,” said Dr. Robbins, who was among the founding directors of the Oak Tree Racing Association and the American Association of Equine Practitioners. “While I was off being a horse doc she was being the best mother you’d ever imagine.”

In addition to her husband and four sons, Maggie Robbins is survived by eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service are pending.