‘It Keeps Me Young’: Santa Anita Celebrates 97-Year-Old Paddock Captain John Shear

by | 01.12.2018 | 4:53pm
Santa Anita paddock captain John Shear

The Old Man and the Racetrack. The Gift that keeps on Giving. The Human version of Fine Wine. What more can you say about Santa Anita's beloved Paddock Captain, John Shear, who is still active every race day at the Great Race Place while approaching his 97th, yes, 97th birthday!

Although he'll officially spin life's odometer next Wednesday, Jan. 17Shear, who along with his wife Diane, resides in Sierra Madre, will be feted in a Winner's Circle ceremony between races this Monday, Martin Luther King Day.

A native of England who originally aspired to be a jockey, Shear gained national recognition for an act of heroism at the age of 90, when on March 12, 2011, he threw himself between an on-rushing loose horse and a 5-year-old girl just outside Santa Anita's Seabiscuit Walking Ring.

Employed at Santa Anita in various roles for nearly six decades, Shear remains an enthusiastic member of the track's workforce and is quick to credit his work ethic as a major factor in his longevity.

“First of all, I love to be outside and I love to walk,” he said. “I do a lot of that here. I tell people, ‘What am I going to do staying at home?' And I really mean that. I love coming to work, moving around, seeing all the people on the weekends and being with the horses. It keeps me young, and every now and then, I find something to bet on!”

And here's hoping John Shear cashes many, many more winning tickets before he finally “cashes in” on what has been an extraordinary life.

This Monday is also Dollar Day at Santa Anita as one dollar beers and sodas will be offered. Monday's feature race on a nine-race card is the Grade III, $100,000 Megahertz Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf. First post time is at 12:30 p.m. and admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.

  • whirlaway

    I adore this man and i understand why he loves coming to work with the beautiful Santa Anita
    setting all the activity and the fabulous horses he has seen during his career. Priceless.

  • Happy Birthday John. Hope you will be at your “POST” for many more races!

  • Marlaine Meeker

    Someone needs to do an indepth interview with Mr. Shear. Just think of what he could tell us about past horses and trainers. Just think he knew a young Art Sherman. Happy Birthday John Shear.

  • Billy Johnston

    Remember the day he saved the little girl as it went viral nationally. Glad he’s still contributing to the once grand sport.

  • Steven Tyre CPA

    I have had the pleasure to have known John Shear for over 40 years. He was the greatest boss ever when I worked at Santa Anita. Always eager for another day of racing and all the while keeping perfect order in the paddock. John is an avid poker player and a WORLD WAR 2 veteran of the English army. He also loves dogs.

    John, here is to another 97.

    Your friend,


    • whirlaway

      Thanks for your info, Mr. Shear is a treasure to Santa Anita as well as being a special person. The world needs more like John Shear.

  • Delrene

    Try to go by and say Hello to him every time I’m at Santa Anita. A true gentleman and great asset to the racetrack. Have a wonderful birthday and will say hi on Vox Populi day. Great fellow!
    Enjoy your special day.

  • Glenys McNally

    Great story and Happy Birthday!

  • Audrey Gulla

    What an inspiration! Happy bIrthday Mr.Shear!!

  • stridebig

    Happy Birthday Mr. Shear :)

    I also would love to see a deeper in depth piece done on this lovey gentleman. So much history is packed into this man. It would be nice to hear the view of a man that’s been in the sport for so long that isn’t a rich owner, breeder, or trainer. A different perspective would be nice. ~K

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