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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
IT’S ALL ABOUT ENTERTAINMENT FOR SANTA ANITA’S ‘MUSIC MAN’
Jay Cohen is Santa Anita’s “Music Man,” only without the scam antics of Professor Harold Hill, the character portrayed by Robert Preston in Meredith Willson’s smash Broadway blockbuster of 1957 and subsequent 1962 hit film.
For Cohen, it’s not about Trouble with a capital T, but strictly about entertaining, something he does with panache.
Cohen is as much a part of Santa Anita’s rich tradition as Trevor Denman’s calls and the Seabiscuit statue. When fans come to Santa Anita, Cohen is music to their ears. Decked out in his traditional Coach Guard’s knee-length red coat and high hat, the popular horn blower has been calling horses to the post at Santa Anita for nearly a quarter of a century, and when he’s not tooting his horn, the multi-faceted Cohen keeps busy with avocations ranging from magic to mountain climbing.
This marks the 23rd year Cohen has been serenading fans at Santa Anita. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love to entertain, I love comedy,” said the 54-year-old South Jersey native, who taught music at Audubon High School before venturing West. “I get a lot of private jobs, from weddings, birthdays and believe it or not, funerals,” Cohen said. “Most of the comedy routines are for people in racing, but I did do two spots in Las Vegas. I enjoy table-hopping at these various affairs, and so do the people. I go into restaurants playing ‘Happy Birthday’ dressed in my track outfit. It’s great.”
Cohen and his fans seem to mesh like French fries and catsup. It’s a natural union. “I haven’t figured that out yet,” Cohen said when asked the reason for his popularity. “I think part of it’s the longevity,” he said. “I don’t make any kind of bad jokes. I don’t curse in front of people. Everything I do is positive. I keep it on the up-and-up. What we do or say to somebody can affect that person for the rest of their life, so you don’t want to be negative. I’m always careful with what I say.”
At an even six feet tall and 170 pounds, Cohen offers an ideal presence as horn blower. He estimates he has made more than 85,000 calls to the post at tracks including Santa Anita, Del Mar, Fairplex Park and some in Japan and Canada, a total of 17 tracks in eight states. He even has a horse named after him, Trumpet Player Jay, a longshot in today’s San Simeon Handicap.
Cohen also is an avid outdoorsman.
“I love to hike,” he said. “I’ve done Kilimanjaro, I’ve walked across the Grand Canyon, I’ve done Mt. Whitney twice and I did Half Dome last summer. I like kayaking, too. I plan to kayak from Laughlin down to Lake Havasu.
“I’m also writing a book of all my encounters. I met a gentleman out here named Aye Jaye who has written six books. He was the original Ronald McDonald clown. He said to me, ‘You’ve got to write a book,’ so, I already have the entire outline done and almost two chapters written.” For Cohen, the title is a natural: “Blowing It All at the Track.”
FINISH LINES: Mike Smith took off his scheduled four mounts Saturday, citing body soreness after his mount in Friday’s fourth race, Operetta Italiano, “shifted out and lost the rider leaving the first turn.” . . . Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney’s Candy worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs Saturday in :59.80 for trainer John Sadler, who is preparing the son of Candy Ride for the Kentucky Derby on May 1 . . . Eclipse Award finalist Blind Luck worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track in :59.80 Saturday under Rafael Bejarano for the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. Originally, she was scheduled to work on the training track. “It was a real good work,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “I told him to go between :59 and a minute, and he went :59 4/5. I don’t really have a good reason,” he said when asked why the drill was switched from the training track. “I just did that. She’ll leave for Kentucky a week from today. She’ll probably work Friday at Hollywood and then go.” . . . Owner Ron Valenta of La Caňada Stables is en route to his second straight Santa Anita meet title as leading owner with 14 wins, but Jack Carava, who trains exclusively for Valenta, feels the meet could have gone better. “It’s been frustrating from the standpoint of all the seconds,” said Carava said, who had 14 wins and 25 seconds from 100 starters through Friday. “I’d say six or eight of the 25 have been by a nose, but overall, we’re happy. All the horses have been running good. I think we’re close to 60 percent in the money, so Ron’s happy, but I’m a little frustrated by the fact that we’ve been beaten a nose so many times, but that’ll happen.” The Craig Family Trust of Jenny Craig led owners in money earned through Friday with $755,940 . . . Trainer Barry Abrams points out that the great grandmother of Unusual Heat, Light of Day, was the dam of the 1955 San Juan Capistrano winner, St. Vincent.