Ernie Auerbach: A passion for the sport
Courtesy of the Thoroughbred Times
September 15, 2001
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Ernie Auerbach enjoys raising his homebreds at E. A. Ranches and racing them in California
Ernie Auerbach will celebrate his 85th birthday on September 25, but he has lost none of his youthful zest for life.
Ernest A. Auerbach is best known in racing as the owner of E. A. Ranches, a 1,000-acre breeding farm and layup center in California. He has been extraordinarily astute in his business dealings and is an affable member of the California racing community.
Auerbach is an unusual blend of city dweller and country boy, a Brooklyn native and longtime Los Angeles resident who has most enjoyed time spent around horses and living on farms. A dedicated businessman who amassed fortunes in construction and real estate, Auerbach is also a hopeless romantic who loves nothing more than relaxing with his horses on his idyllic farm near Santa Ysabel.
Auerbach has always been a man of vision, someone who could perceive the value of a piece of property as well as the potential of a horse farm in an unspoiled section of northeastern San Diego County.
"I stood above the farm and saw a lot of possibilities," Auerbach recently said of his first look at the property after learning that the land, then called Willowmead Ranch, was going into foreclosure in 1977. "It was nice and quiet and secluded. It had one stallion standing there; primarily, cattle were raised there."
Auerbach bought a nearby 1,100-acre farm, Santa Ysabel Farm, to raise beef cattle.
"I bought land like some people buy artwork," Auerbach said. "I love the land for nature's sake or to hike on. The farm was quiet and serene. It's pretty high, a 2,750-foot altitude. I like to keep rustic surroundings. I don't want to make it look like a horse factory."
Turned into showplace
Auerbach has developed E. A. Ranches into one of California's showplace farms. "It has native grasses and big 25-acre pastures," Auerbach said. "There are miles of fences and riding trails." The property also has a five-furlong training track.
The full-service facility is home to 250 Thoroughbreds, about 100 belonging to Auerbach. The others are mostly layups or horses being broken for other trainers. Three stallions stand there: Mr. Integrity, Kleven, and Paster's Caper. Auerbach said he is looking for a fourth.
The farm hums like a finely tuned machine under the watchful eyes of general manager Marguerite Eliasson and trainer Sherrie Songer. In addition, horse manager Roberto Mejia and maintenance director Miguel Vaca oversee 25 employees.
"Marguerite has been with me 20 years. She's a workaholic, goes to seminars, and knows as much as some of the vets. I love being out there, watching Sherrie taking horses to the track in the morning and watching the babies run around," said Auerbach, who spends half his time in the 90-year-old ranch house and the other half at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Pacific Palisades.
Auerbach's passion for horses began in his youth in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. "I used to ride horses at Prospect Park and would skip an occasional day at Flatbush High School to see the races at Aqueduct or Belmont," he said.
His father died when he was eight, and his mother raised him, two brothers, and one sister.
After high school, Auerbach spent several years at a farm near Goshen, about 70 miles north of New York City. "One brother was in the produce business, and when this 300-acre farm became available, we decided to buy it and grow our own produce. The soil was rich and the big product was onions, but we also grew tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet corn. It cost more to grow the product than to sell it during the heart of the Depression in the 1930s, but I enjoyed life at the farm."
Auerbach also was able to see the Hambletonian, Standardbred racing's best-known trotting contest, each summer at its longtime Goshen home. "I got to talk to the trainers and watch the horses work," he said.
Begins with cavalry
Even Auerbach's military duty during World War II began with the horse cavalry at Ft. Riley, Kansas, where he was "in seventh heaven." But he was soon approved for Officer Candidate School and spent most of his hitch in the transportation corps during the war in Europe, with duty in England, France, Belgium, and Germany before being discharged as a captain.
Auerbach decided to leave the wholesale produce business in New York to begin a new life in California after the war. The event he describes as "the best thing that ever happened to me" took place shortly thereafter when a pretty redhead named Lisa stole his heart and accepted his marriage proposal in 1946.
Auerbach launched his Ernest Auerbach Co. real-estate company in Santa Monica. "I built thousands of houses, condominiums, and office buildings as the owner of Auerbach Construction, a company I closed down about ten years ago."
Auerbach's success in business enabled him to pursue his passion in racing. An owner for many years, he currently has about eight horses each in training with Darrell Vienna and John Sadler in Southern California and four with Bill Mahorney in Northern California.
Auerbach's first major winner was Lottery Winner, an Apalachee gelding who won the 1993 Goodwood Handicap (G2) and $487,425 with the help of milk of magnesia to soothe a stomach ulcer. "We made a hunter-jumper out of him at the Del Mar Horse Park, and he loves it," Auerbach said. "We retired him to the farm at first, but he looked at me one day and his eyes said, 'I'm lonely. Give me something to do.' "
Auerbach also campaigned homebred Belle's Flag, who was considered one of the top four-year-old fillies in the nation after winning the 1997 El Encino (G2) and La Canada (G2) Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Belledoux, the dam of Belle's Flag, also produced Tres Paraiso, winner of the 1997 Pat O'Brien (G3) and Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicaps. The Honest Pleasure gelding was converted to a jumper after retirement and sold. Vienna trained Belle's Flag and Tres Paraiso as well as Auerbach stakes winners Closed Escrow and Grab the Prize.
Three of the leading broodmares at the farm are Belledoux, who has a Rahy filly weanling; Belle's Flag with her first foal, a Rahy colt weanling; and Closed Escrow, who has a Charismatic colt.
Vienna, who has trained for Auerbach for a decade, said he is grateful for the owner's patience with his horses. "Ernie has an undying optimism, and a way of making you feel confident and that your decision is important to him," said Vienna.
Auerbach and Vienna have formed a mutual admiration society. "Darrell will see a little blip on a horse's tendon, and even if the vet says he's okay, he will call me and say it's my decision," the owner said. "That means the horse will come back to the farm."
Auerbach's current stable, although lacking a stakes star, includes such hard-hitting allowance horses as Meet Me in Dixie, Queen of Wilshire, and Wolfwithintegrity. "Friends ask me why I breed horses instead of claim them," Auerbach said. "I tell them I look forward to seeing the horse run in two years. What is that old saying around the track: 'You never heard of a guy committing suicide with a champion two-year-old'?"
Auerbach has a pair of two-year-olds that, if not champions, are keeping him enthusiastic about their prospects: Doux Slew, a Seattle Slew colt out of Belledoux, with Vienna; and Icy Skies, by Conquistador Cielo out of Mighty Icy, with Sadler.
Auerbach and his wife have two daughters and two granddaughters, one of whom is a budding 12-year-old equestrian. "They all the love the ranch, except my wife," Auerbach said with a chuckle. "She prefers Pacific Palisades, where she has her friends and charities. But we'll work it out. We've been married almost 55 years. We've had a good life."
California Breeder/Owner Ernest Auerbach Dies
Courtesy of the Blood-Horse
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Ernest Auerbach, who campaigned several California graded stakes winners, died Feb. 1 of pancreatic cancer at his Pacific Palisades, Calif. home. Auerbach, who owned E. A. Ranches near Ramona, Calif., was 93.
Auerbach visited his ranch and attended the races up until the time of his death.
In his name and in his farm name, Auerbach bred and/or raced graded winners Belle’s Flag, Grab the Prize, Lottery Winner, Queen of Wilshire, Star Cross, and Tres Paraiso. Homebred Belle’s Flag was voted 1996 California champion 3-year-old filly after winning the Canvas Specialty California Cup Matron Handicap and the Fleet Treat Stakes. As a 4-year-old, she won the El Encino (gr. II) and La Canada (gr. II) Stakes, and at 5, she captured her second California Cup Matron.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Auerbach began betting the races at Aqueduct at an early age. He started a wholesale produce firm and later got into a real estate and land development in California.
Auerbach is survived by his wife, Lisa; daughters Heidi and Lorna; and two granddaughters.
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