02/12/2007 12:00AM

McCaffery succumbs to cancer


Trudy McCaffery, a popular and successful owner whose unbridled passion for racing extended to horse welfare and nurturing young fans, died after a lengthy battle with cancer on Monday morning at her home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. She was 62.

McCaffery, with her ex-partner John Toffan, had one of the nation's most successful stables in the 1990's with the likes of A.P. Assay, Bien Bien, Del Mar Dennis, Mane Minister, Pacific Squall, and her personal favorite, Free House, who won the Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Handicap, and Del Mar's Pacific Classic. Her last nationally prominent runner was Came Home, who won the Pacific Classic in 2002.

As active as she was with racing in the afternoon, McCaffery was a tireless advocate for horses and horsemen. She was on the board of the Oak Tree Racing Association, the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, Breeders' Cup Ltd., National Thoroughbred Racing Association Charities, the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation, and Tranquility Farm. In 2002, she was presented with the Commissioner's Cup by the NTRA for her contributions to the sport.

McCaffery also saw the need to give young fans a pathway to the sport, and thus founded Kids to the Cup in 1999. KTTC sponsored youths and teens to attend races such as the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup, where McCaffery personally took invitees on tours and introduced them to trainers and jockeys.

Even while suffering from cancer the past two years, McCaffery soldiered on and willed herself to attend the races, most notably during last fall's Oak Tree meeting.

"She was racing's best friend," trainer Jenine Sahadi, one of McCaffery's closest friends, said Monday from her home near Santa Anita. "The biggest thing for her was Oak Tree. She'd get to my house Friday night, sick as a dog from the chemo, and head out the next day for the races, presenting trophies and schmoozing. She brought people together, like with Kids to the Cup. And she would follow through with her horses. Del Mar Dennis became a jumper, and she would go to shows to watch him compete.

"She loved racing more than anything. You'd go to her house, it would be two hours until the first race at Santa Anita, and she'd have the TV on, watching races from Laurel. The races were on 24-7 in that house."

A native of Winnipeg, Canada, McCaffery is survived by her mother, Maxine Hanson, and three sisters - Alix Bauce, Marilyn Hoffman, and Paula Weber.

A memorial service for McCaffery will be held after the races at Santa Anita on Friday at 5 p.m. Pacific in the track's Chandelier Room.

"She said she didn't want people being all sad," Sahadi said. "She wanted to have a party with an open bar."

In lieu of flowers, McCaffery had requested that donations be made to the Gregson Foundation, P.O. Box 660039, Arcadia, CA 91066.