The San Luis Rey Downs Golf Resort was the site of a 95th birthday party for Joseph Mosbacher, who was both a trainer and a workout clocker at the San Luis Rey Downs Training Center and was also a jockey and a jockey’s agent during his 75-year equestrian career.
“It was one of the best parties I’ve ever had. I didn’t realize I had so many friends,” Mosbacher said.
The man known as “Mossy” at San Luis Rey Downs was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Oct. 27, 1917. He moved to San Diego when he was 9 years old. His family then moved to a ranch in Encanto, but at the age of 13 he ran away from home to seek an income. Mosbacher had closed out his formal education in eighth grade at Memorial Junior High School.
“I’ve been on a racetrack ever since. I’ve done everything you can do,” Mosbacher said.
Mosbacher began his equestrian career as a jockey in 1931, starting with summers at state fairs and other short meets throughout the United States and returning to Southern California when racing began at Santa Anita and Del Mar. In 1934, Mosbacher and another exercise boy became the first two riders to gallop a horse around the Santa Anita track; the barns for the first meet were still under construction at the time.
Mosbacher’s work as an exercise rider when he wasn’t racing led him to Bonsall in the early 1930s, when the San Luis Rey Breeding Farm was one of the largest breeding farms in the state.
Mosbacher was also a steeplechase jockey at the Caliente racetrack in Tijuana, but as he gained weight he quit riding about 1939. The connection between Southern California horse racing and the motion picture industry allowed Mosbacher to serve as a jockey in several films including A Day at the Races, National Velvet, Stable Mates, and Saratoga.
Mosbacher took four years off from horses to serve in the Navy during World War II. He spent two decades as a trainer, and his clients included George Getty, Nelson Bunker Hunt, Peter Fuller, and Montgomery R. Fuller. He trained Proper Proof, who won the Derby Trial in 1968 to earn entry into the Kentucky Derby, and also trained a filly named Solid Thought who won five consecutive stakes races and was sold to the Getty Family.
Mosbacher won the Kentucky Derby as a jockey agent in 1953, when Henry Moreno rode Dark Star to victory. Mosbacher also served as a racetrack valet and owned or co-owned several race horses.
Mosbacher’s wife, Ida, was the sister of jockey Tommy Mansor. Joseph Mosbacher and Ida Mansor were married in 1946 and stayed together for 54 years before Ida passed away in June 2000. Mosbacher also continued as an exercise rider after World War II; when jockeys were paid a dollar a head to gallop horses Willie Shoemaker hired Mosbacher to ride the tougher horses for $4 a head.
Mosbacher and his wife had a box at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for more than three decades until the grandstands were redesigned. He was often joined in the box by Betty Grable and Harry James.
Mosbacher worked as a trainer at the San Luis Rey Downs Thoroughbred Training Center when C. Arholdt Smith owned the facility. Scoop Vessels owned the training center in 1983 when the previous clocker, Todd Meyers, passed away after a stroke. After Meyers’ stroke, Vessels contacted Mosbacher with the clocker opportunity. Mosbacher worked as the clocker at San Luis Rey Downs until 2010.
“I had a great time,” Mosbacher said of his equestrian career.
Mosbacher also golfs weekly at the San Luis Rey course. He lives in Oceanside, which is central to San Luis Rey Downs and Del Mar.
Mosbacher also wrote more than 50 poems about equestrian activity, and his poems were turned into printed booklets. During his birthday lunch Mosbacher presented a poem he wrote about not being old unless one’s mind makes a date one’s body can’t fill.
hose in attendance at Mosbacher’s birthday lunch signed a poster of Mosbacher drawn by Harry Varlie. “Everything was drawn today. It just took forever,” Varlie said.
Varlie’s poster included the words “Happy 95th Birthday” and “Our Mossy” above the drawing of Mosbacher on a horse. Below the picture Varlie wrote the words: “Ride her till she bucks or don’t ride at all”.
“Best birthday party I’ve ever had,” Mosbacher said.