Best Pal A Special Horse

Best Pal with Gary Stevens Up. Benoit and Associates photo.

  Best Pal was--above all else--a professional racehorse. The husky gelding came out running early and hardly ever stopped during a remarkable career that saw him win 18 races--17 of them stakes--and $5,668,245 in purses, far and away the record for a California-bred, and at the time putting him 3rd on the all time money earning list behind Alysheba and John Henry. Best Pal was a once-in-a-lifetime horse. From humble beginnings he captured not just the hearts of his owners, but of many, many every day fans. Crowds would come to the races every time he ran.

   He got fan mail; one fan had a personalized license plate made up saying "Bes Pal". A children's book was written based on his story. He was the people's horse.

 It was a sad day when he was retired after a dismal San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita Park on Monday, January 15, 1996 at the age of 8, but it was time.    

A true fan. photo by Shigeki Kikkawa

He was to live out his life in easy retirement at Golden Eagle Farm, leading young horses to the track in the mornings, teaching them the ropes, and lazing around in the pasture in the afternoons.

   Fans were invited to the farm to see him and bring his favorite treat, carrots. And they did.


Special supplment published by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association in Honor of Best Pal

Upon Best Pal's retirement as the most famous California-Bred ever, The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association published a special 20-page supplement detailing Best Pal's career and some of the memories of those that worked around him. Read the main story by Jay Hovedy. Read the collection of personal memories compiled by Ed Golden.

     He made an appearance at Del Mar in 1997 and 1998 to lead the Pacific Classic post parade out. His fans cheered at the sight of him.

   How shocked we all were to hear of his sudden death of an apparent heart attack on November 24, 1998, at a relatively young age of 11. When he was buried on the grounds of Golden Eagle Farm it meant he had come full circle in a life too short, yet filled with a lifetime of memories.  

   "It was a big loss; like losing a member of the family," said John Mabee. At the request of many fans, a memorial service was held on March 9th, 1999 at Golden Eagle. Over 300 fans from all over came to pay their last respects to him. There was not a dry eye at the service as people from the audience remembered Best Pal as those connected to him spoke. You can read Jay Hovedy's moving Daily Racing Form story from November 27, 1998, as well as a tribute to Best Pal that was posted on The Turf Online website.

Best Pal leads the Post Parade of the 1997 Pacific Classic. Chris McCarron up. Photo by Benoit and Associates.


Best Pal will be remembered by all in racing, especially at his "home" track of Del Mar. One of the 2-year-old stakes he won there in 1990--the Balboa--was subsequently renamed in his honor in 1996. A popular pub just off the paddock area also was renamed for him and was filled with photos, records and paraphernalia from his career.


Here is one poem read aloud at the service:

Epitaph for "Best Pal"
Some have been named for heroes,
or feats of great acclaim.
Some are called for yearnings,
or for hopes of future fame,
Some may bear a family's tags,
or perhaps an owner's aim...
but here forever lies a horse
who lived up to his name.
May the track always be fast
and the pastures green.
"Go, Best Pal."

From an old horse race fan...
who loves and respects the
horse in horse racing.
Gordon Personius, Union, Washington

   His grave lies beside a majestic 600-year-old oak tree near the Golden Eagle Farm office. Fans well in advance of the memorial topped his grave with flowers and his favorite treats--peppermints and carrots. Mrs. Mabee asked that a stone from the farm be found for Best Pal's headstone.
   Horses like Best Pal don't come along very often. Those who saw him run were part of something special, something that carries on even though Best Pal runs no more.


Mary Shepardson of Del Mar contributed to this story.


47 starts
from 2-7

18 wins
(17 stakes)

11 times 2nd
(11 stakes)

4 times 3rd
(all stakes)


At 2: Won Hollywood Futurity (gr.I), Norfolk S (gr.I), Del Mar Futurity (gr II), Balboa S (gr III), I'm Smokin S. (R); 2nd Ladbrook Futurity.

At 3: Won Swaps S (gr III), Pacific Classic (NTR, Dmr, 10 furlongs in 1:59 4/5); 2nd Kentucky Derby (gr I), Santa Anita Derby (grI), Citation H (gr IIT), Silver Screen H. (gr III), Wells Fargo Bank California Cup Classic H (R); 3rd San Rafael S (gr II).

At 4: Won Santa Anita H (gr I), Charles H. Strub S. (gr I), Oalkawn H (gri), San Fernando S (gr II).

At 5: Won Hollywood Gold Cup H (gi, Wells Fargo Bank California Cup Classic H (R); 2nd Hollywood Turf H (gr IT; Pacific Classic (grI), Oaklawn H (gr1).

At 6: Won Native Diver H (gr (III), Answer Do S (R); 2nd Pacific Classic (gr I), San Pasqual H (gr II); 3rd Kentucky Cup Classic S.

At 7: Won San Antonio H (gr II), Skywalker S; 2nd Santa Anita H (g II), Wells Fargo Bank California Cup Classic H (R)

Full Race Record

Major Accomplishments
at the time of his retirement.

Three-time California Horse of the Year (1990, 1991, 1992)

One of only four horses to win Santa Anita Handicap, Strub Stakes, and Hollywood Gold Cup in a career (others were Round Table, Prove It, and Affirmed).

One of only two horses to win three $1-million events (the other is Alysheba)

Bred in California by Mr. and Mrs. John C. Mabee

Foaled February 12, 1988 at Golden Eagle Farm

By Habitony out of Ubetshedid by King Pellinore

Full Pedigree

A Children's Book was written about Best Pal



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