Betty Mabee, major California horse owner, dies

BY foxsports • February 16, 2010

Betty L. Mabee, who with her late husband John helped build one of the West Coast's major thoroughbred breeding operations and played a key role in the blossoming of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and Del Mar racetrack, has died. She was 88.

Her son, Larry, said his mother died Monday after an extended illness at her home in nearby Rancho Santa Fe. Her death was announced Tuesday by track officials.

Betty and John Mabee bought two horses for $6,000 at the Del Mar yearling sale in 1957. That led to the founding of Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona, Calif., which grew from 197 to 568 acres at its height early in the last decade.

The couple won Eclipse Awards in 1991, '97 and '98, and were the leading breeders in California.

Their best known horse was Best Pal, who was bred and foaled at their farm and went on to win more than $5.6 million, including the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar in 1991.

The couple, who were high school sweethearts in the Midwest, moved to San Diego during World War II and opened a small grocery that evolved into the 30-store Big Bear chain. The Mabees later started and ran Golden Eagle Insurance Co., California's third-largest workers' compensation carrier, with more than 1,300 employees.

Following the death of her husband in 2002, Mrs. Mabee joined the board of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club as a director, a role she served in until 2008, when she took on the title of director emeritus.

Besides her son, Mrs. Mabee is survived by three grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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