06/15/2006 11:00PM

Popular mare Joni U. Bar dies

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Joni U. Bar, a multiple stakes winner in the 1980's and the dam of the California champion McCann's Mojave, died earlier this month after a battle with colic.

Joni U. Bar was 26. She was being treated at the Winner's Circle Equine Clinic in Hemet, Calif., at the time of her death, according to owner Mike Willman.

Willman owned Joni U. Bar for the last nine years of her life, having purchased her privately from Dr. Rick Arthur, a backstretch veterinarian.

Willman bred Joni U. Bar several times but "McCann's Mojave was the only baby I got," he said. "It was worth it."

McCann's Mojave, who is by Memo, was the final registered foal out of Joni U. Bar.

McCann's Mojave won the $250,000 California Cup Classic last November at Santa Anita, the most lucrative of four stakes wins in his career. McCann's Mojave also won the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap and Sensational Star Handicap at Santa Anita in 2004, a year in which he was honored as California-bred champion older male.

McCann's Mojave was the only stakes winner out of Joni U. Bar, who also produced the stakes-placed runner Big Find, a winner of $74,450.

By Nordic Prince out of the Grey Eagle mare Edes Ilona, Joni U. Bar was bred by Frank Cozza. As a racehorse, few California-bred mares were as consistent as Joni U. Bar.

In a six-year career from 1983 to 1988, she won 16 of 37 starts and $320,050, including two stakes - the 1985 Charles Russell Handicap at Bay Meadows and the 1987 June Darling Stakes at Del Mar.

Arthur, who will leave his backstretch practice this fall to serve as the California Horse Racing Board's equine medical director, owned Joni U. Bar toward the end of her racing career. He bought her from Cozza's estate.

Arthur recalls making a private offer for the mare and being delighted that the estate's representatives accepted his proposal

"I doubled my money in the next nine months," he said.

Joni U. Bar's consistency made her a fan favorite. She won for an $80,000 claiming price and was effective up to a mile.

"She was a heck of a racehorse and a nice broodmare," Arthur said. "I think some of her foals could have been better with a little luck."

Arthur campaigned Joni U. Bar when Hollywood Park had two finish lines on its main track - one at the current location in front of the grandstand and another a sixteenth of a mile farther down the track that allowed for one-mile races to be run around one turn.

If that sounds confusing, it sometimes was, even for horse owners. Both finish lines were used on the same day.

Arthur remembers a day when he briefly forgot which line was being used for Joni U. Bar's race, but was relieved to see her in front at the first finish line - and to see her keep going toward the second.

"I remember one race when she barely got up and won and then when she got to the second finish line, she was three lengths in front," he said. "I got to see her win two races in one race."