Leonard Dorfman Passes at 92

From Santa Anita Publicity
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 17, 2015) -- Highly respected longtime Southern California trainer Leonard Dorfman passed away peacefully early Sunday evening at his daughter’s home in Round Rock Texas. The affable Dorfman, a decorated World War II combat veteran who lied about his eyesight to enlist in the Army at age 19, would have been 93 on June 22.

Best known as the conditioner of multiple stakes winners Biggs, Travel Orb, Minnesota Chief, Joni U. Bar and McCann’s Mojave, Dorfman gravitated to the track at an early age and one of his first jobs was grooming horses at movie mogul Louis B. Mayer’s farm in Hemet, Calif., circa, 1939 at age 15.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Dorfman emigrated to Los Angeles with his mother at the age of 7 and soon thereafter cultivated a lifetime love affair with horses.

“He was such a kind and gentle man,” said retired Hall of Fame jockey Donald Pierce, from his home in Encinitas. “He was without a doubt one of the finest horsemen I ever rode for.

We had a lot of success together. A lot of guys, they’ll (expletive deleted) you about their horses and how they’re doing. Leonard was always straight up with me and when he told me he had something for me to ride, they were live, believe me.”

Long active along with his late friend, trainer Noble Threewitt, on behalf of fellow horsemen in the H.B.P.A. and later the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), Dorfman won 16 races and two stakes with Joni U. Bar, a rangy mare by Nordic Prince, who would go on to become the dam of multiple graded stakes winner McCann’s Mojave.

“Leonard had a sixth sense with horses,” said Mike Willman, Santa Anita Director of Publicity and the co-breeder and owner of McCann’s Mojave. “The horse always came first with Leonard. He would often say, ‘There’s always another race.’ He was an amazing, honest man and a wonderful human being. I’ll never forget what Frank Cozza, who bred Joni U. Bar and a lot of other nice horses, told my best friend’s dad one time after they had won a race here at Santa Anita. Frank said the key to success with Leonard was, ‘To just leave that little Jewish fella alone.’”

Trainer Ray Bell had this memory: “He had horses being transported by train for L.B. Mayer through the San Bernardino desert, and it was so hot, they opened the doors on the box car. Suddenly one of the horses breaks loose and jumps over a stack of straw bales and into the desert.

“Leonard couldn’t notify anyone or stop the train, because he was way in the back, and this was way before cell phones or anything. He decided the first time the train stopped he would get to a phone let them know there was a race horse running around in the desert.

“Finally they stopped, probably somewhere in Arizona, and Leonard called L.B. Mayer’s secretary and told her so-and-so is running loose in the desert out in San Bernardino.

“Anyway, they finally captured the horse and there wasn’t a scratch on him. So they loaded him up on the next train for Chicago, they met him out there, and he wound up being a useful sort of horse.”

Services for Dorfman, who is survived by his wife, Marlene, and daughter, Lisa Crisks, are pending.