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1974 - 1994  -  Thoroughbred Champion

(Never Bend - Hill Shade, Hillary)






J.O. Tobin

photographed winning

the Swaps Stakes in 1977

(Hollywood Park Photo from

The Thoroughbred Record,

24 May 1978).




The Day J O Tobin Slew the Slew                Video of J. O. Tobin's Memorable Race

Pedigree                 Barrera's Best Week



J. O. Tobin (1974), a big black Thoroughbred by Never Bend out of Hill Shade (by Hillary) was the English Two-Year-Old Champion (1976) and United States Three-Year-Old Champion Sprinter (1977). J. O. Tobin is the sire of Magical Mile TB, the maternal great-grandsire of Rare News.


If for no other accomplishment -- and his accomplishments were many -- J. O. Tobin will be remembered because he gave the undefeated Seattle Slew his first crushing loss (after 9 wins) at the Swaps Stakes, Hollywood Park, 1977.


J. O. Tobin was ridden by legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker that day. He led every step. He beat Seattle Slew by 8-lengths and missed the track and world record for 1 1/4 by only two-fifths of a second.


The Day J. O. Tobin Slew The Slew

From  (Sports Writer Unknown)


It was the day before J. O. Tobin would get his final tune-up for his meeting with Seattle Slew.

A disappointing crowd of 31,156 turned out at Hollywood Park. My beat back in those days was the Southern California horse racing circuit for the Pasadena Star News.

Seattle Slew waited in the wings.

J.O. Tobin had been rushed into the Preakness by owner George Pope turned in a smashing effort on this day. Under a feathery 107-pound impost the three-year-old son of Never Bend established a new track standard for 1-1/8 miles over the infield turf course at Hollywood Park.

Bill Shoemaker was aboard. J.O. Tobin merely toyed with five outclassed foes.

"Let me tell you," Shoemaker said, "that horse (Bill was talking about Seattle Slew) is gonna have to do some running to beat my horse. We were only beaten about five lengths by him in the Preakness, and, believe me, my horse had a lot more trouble than that in the race."

J.O. Tobin met older horses in his tune-up race. He eclipsed a six-year-old record of 1:47 1/5. He bettered the record set by Ack Ack in July of 1971.


Seattle Slew arrived at Los Angeles Airport by plane along with Hunza Dancer. The bargain $17,500 purchase was whisked off to Hollywood Park. Veterinarian Jim Hill accompanied the 'Slew. Hill sedated Seattle Slew for the six-hour flight.

Not since the mid fifties, when famed Swaps was the talk of the racing world, had so much excitement been generated. Phones were ringing off the hook at Hollywood Park. Ticket scalpers were using every ploy to acquire tickets.

The 'Slew's every move was being covered by the media. Seattle Slew would be going for his 10th consecutive triumph in the 1977 Swaps Stakes. The pot was $300,000. Not since Citation had a Triple Crown winner gone on display in California.

"In the 31 years I've been around this is the greatest response I've ever seen," said Hollypark's operations manager Al Ramsey. "We've gotten letters from Texas, New York and New Jersey. You name it. I have a friend of mine up in Las Vegas I haven't heard from in five years. And, I get this phone call from him. He's congratulating me, on my new promotion. And, at the end of the conversation, he's asking me how it looks for Swaps Day."

"Then he asks. By the way. Could I get him 20 tickets for his clients on Swaps Day? I said, no way! I said that he could come down and take his best shot with the rest of the people on Swaps Day. I told him that 3,000 reserved seats would go on sale at 10 a.m. as soon as the gates open."

There was a group of people who called Hollypark's ticket department from San Clemente. That's a beach community midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. They were coming to the Inglewood oval at 5 a.m. on race day. They planned to wait at the gates until they were opened.

Brokers were trying to buy blocks of 50 to 100 tickets. All of these people were told the same thing, get in line with everyone else. Even a religious organization, which claimed they had been praying for Seattle Slew, tried to acquire tickets.

Extra help was hired by Hollypark. On the day of the big racecars were to be parked in the stable area, on the Getty oil field north of the track near Gate 7, and on the perimeter roads. Additional parking would be available on the polo field.

Seattle Slew was bedded down in barn 60. He had more security than Cuba's Fidel Castro. They roped the Slew's area off. The colt, reportedly insured at a cost of $3,000 weekly, seemed undaunted by all the hoopla.


The Thursday prior to the big race Seattle Slew came out to gallop one and a half times around the oval with Mike Kennedy. All eyes were on the champion.

I remember this day like yesterday. Trainers lined up their ponies at the gap in order to watch. The guiney stand was packed by the curious. Seattle Slew looked the part. He looked strong and rugged. He handled the track well. Trainer Billy Turner was pleased.

Seattle Slew bumper stickers and T-shirts were being sold. Hollywood Park obtained permission to use a special S-Slew code on its pari-mutuel tickets for the Swaps Day Stakes. They were projecting a minus pool in the betting. Management was too concerned about it. Thousands of tickets backing Seattle Slew would never be cashed anyway.

The Slew had slain 87 foes in nine starts. After winning the Belmont, it was revealed a total of $125,000 had been returned to the state of New York. That figure probably represented uncashed tickets fans had retained as souvenirs.

At the draw for post positions Seattle Slew drew the two slot. Post four went to J.O. Tobin. A surprise entry of Mr. Red Wing upped the field to seven. The gross value of the 1-1/4 mile event would be $316,400.

Seattle Slew's success story began Sept., 20, 1976. He broke his maiden by five lengths at Belmont Park. It was the beginning of something big in horse racing.

He had three lengths to spare in an allowance race victory at the distance of seven furlongs in October. The Slew's next test was the Champagne at the distance of a mile. He led every step in 1:34 2/5. The winning margin was 10 open lengths.

"After the Champagne," recalls part owner Mickey Taylor, "we knew we had something special."


Trainer Turner was calling the shots. The Slew, without question, was something extra-ordinary. It was on to Hialeah for an allowance race. He scored by nine and smashed the track record for seven with a clocking of 1:20 3/5.

The Flamingo was next. The result was the same. Seattle Slew scored by four over Giboulee.

Next came the Wood Memorial. It was a wire-to-wire win for the Slew at the Big A.

They were ready for the Triple Crown.

"He educated this horse like no human being," said horseracing expert Frank Tours who was working for the New York Racing Association. "You should have been there the day of the cloudburst and they wound up walking him. Those hard boots were going out of their minds. No way, they said, would he win the Derby with tactics like that. But he did."

And win the Derby he did. Breaking badly, the nation watched Seattle Slew plough his way through the field going for the first turn. He went on to win. The roses were in the hands of the Slew crew.

Historic wins in the Preakness at Pimlico and the Belmont completed the grand slam. The Triple Crown was his.

You would think credentials like that would scare off all comers. Not so! There were those who gave J.O. Tobin a good chance of halting Slew's win string in the Swaps at Hollywood Park.

Jockey Jean Cruget should have known it was not going to be his day. Cruget got into an altercation with a gateman trying to enter Hollypark on the day of the big race.

J.O. Tobin scored a smashing eight-length triumph in the Swaps. He got an assist from jockey Darrel McHargue aboard Text. J.O. Tobin missed the track and world record for 1-1/4 by only two-fifths of a second.

The winner took the track away from Seattle Slew from the start. J.O. Tobin led every step under Shoemaker. Longshot Affiliate finished second. Text ran third.

The Slew had been slain. It was sad. He finished 16 lengths back of the winner in fourth.

A crowd of 68,115 jammed into Hollywood Park. They came to cheer for Seattle Slew and backed him to the hilt. They bet a record $659,742 on the colt who was going for his tenth straight.

Around the clubhouse turn, McHargue Text positioned on the outside flank of Seattle Slew on turn one. Cruget was caught in a switch aboard Seattle Slew. His famed mount nearly clipped heels. J.O. Tobin was being geared down a bit while racing on the lead. The Slew had no place to go. Cruget had to check his horse.

J.O. Tobin, the English champion as a two-year-old, opened up a clear lead down the backstraight. The Slew continued racing inside Text. He inched into second as they approached the half-mile pole. That's when you knew, the undefeated string of the Slew was in serious jeopardy.

Shoemaker was engineering another one of his fantastic front-running rides. The Shoe asked J.O. Tobin to open up a bit off the turn. There was a deafening roar from the large crowd. Fans jammed closer to railing to get a better view.

The Slew was a beaten horse with three-sixteenths of a mile to go.

When Seattle Slew returned to the unsaddling area, the fans let him know they had come to see him run. It sent chills up my spine.


"I knew we were beat into the first turn," said Cruget. "He just wasn't himself—at least in the race. He was fine warming up. And the track was fine. He didn't have any problems handling the track. He just didn't fire."

Cruget made no reference to his altercation with the gateman.

"I didn't expect to be on the lead," said Shoemaker. "But when he broke so well I just went on with him. When the gate opened
he broke like a bullet. Today he got it all together. I think this is a good horse. I think, if he had run like this in the Preakness, he would have beaten Seattle Slew."

During the press conference, Shoemaker was asked if he felt J.O. Tobin was a better horse than Seattle Slew? "I don't think he would have beaten him today or in any race he has ever run," said Shoe. "I don't know how much better he is, but I think he's a better horse."

It marked Shoe's 7,244th lifetime win. It gave him is 703rd conquest in a stakes race.

Shoemaker felt J.O. Tobin's Preakness race was much better than many had thought. Why, owner Pope was asked, had they dodged Seattle Slew in the Belmont if they felt J.O. Tobin's Preakness effort was so good? Pope didn't have a good answer.

The facts were trainer Johnny Adams had been pushed into hurrying J.O. Tobin to make the Preakness. It was well known that Pope ran the show.
J.O. Tobin simply had so much talent he was able to bounce back in the Swaps. He overcame it all.

They ran the last race at Hollywood Park on that famed day around 7 p.m. The third largest crowd in history had bet an all time record of $7,232,800. That sounds like peanuts compared to the big numbers that have been racked up since the inception of simulcasting. The last of the cars were leaving the stable area where the overflow had been jammed at about 8:35 p.m.

Mickey Taylor, co-owned of Seattle Slew, said it all: "He just didn't fire. He got beat by a very good horse. I'm Sorry we disappointed the wonderful people in California."


YouTube video of J.O.Tobin slaying "The Slew"






Jockey Bill Shoemaker raises his whip

as he rides his mount Ferdinand

to win the Kentucky Derby,

May 3, 1986. (AP)






J. O. Tobin



Never Bend




Mumtaz Begum



Be Faithful

Hill Shade




Snow Bunny






J. O. Tobin Race Record & Information


1974 - 94


Two-year old Champion in England, three-year old Champion Sprinter in the U.S.


21 Starts, 12 - 2 - 2, $659,416


Won: Laurent Perrier Champagne S.-G2 (ENG), Richmond S.-G2 (ENG), Swaps S.-G1, Coronado H., Californian S.-G1, Malibu S.-G2, San Bernardino H.-G2, Premiere H., Los Angeles H.-G2, Tom Fool H. 2nd: San Fernando S.-G2, 3rd: Grand Criterium-G1 (FR), Charles H. Strub S.-G1. 1976 Top-Weighted Great Britain Free Handicap for 2YO - 7 furlongs: 133 lbs. (Champion 2YO). 1978 Eclipse Award: Co-Champion Sprinter (w/Dr. Patches). Set NTR Hollywood Park, 9f 1:47.0. Handed Seattle Slew first lifetime defeat in the 1977 Swaps Stakes.


Owner: George A. Pope Jr.          

Breeder: George A. Pope Jr.          

State Bred: MD

Trainers: Johnny Adams, Lazaro Barrera

Sire of 500 foals, 386 starters, 270 winners with 942 wins.

Great-grandsire of Rare News


J. O. Tobin (with trainer John Adams)

on the cover of the Thoroughbred Record,

20 July 1977.

From the Thoroughbred RECORD, 24 May 1978


Barrera's Best Week by Leon Rasmussen


Back to back Eclipse Award-winning trainer Lazaro Barrera is getting to the place where his latest achievements can only be compared to those he has achieved before.


Who will ever forget the day he saddled Bold Forbes to win the Kentucky Derby of 1976? On that same afternoon hores prepared by him won the Illinois Derby (Life's Hope) and the Carter handicap (Due Diligence). So that was a day among days.


But the week and a day which included Affirmed's Kentucky Derby will do until eight more days like them come along.


On the Wednesday following the "rose run." Barrera was back in California in time to watch his son Larry saddle Harbor View Farm and Jacobs's Reminiscing for her popular victory in the $43,450 Sequoia Handicap. The following morning he supervised J. O. Tobin's final workout prior to Sunday's $214,550 Californian, then telephoned final instructions for Leslie Combs II's Mashteen who was to win the Comely Handicap at the Big A Saturday.


On Sunday, May 14, he lifted Steve Cauthen into the saddle aboard J. O. Tobin, who was to prove a completely-in-charge winner of the 1 1/16th-mile Californian by 2 1/2 lengths over Elmendorf's Replant. with Loblolly Stabele's Cox's Ridge (losing for the first time in seven starts) third another 1 1/2 lengths out of it and 1 1/4 lengths before Caballero Handicap winner, Bad 'n Big.


Final time of 1:41 was the fastest of the meeting at the distance.


For J. O. Tobin, the 1-to-2 choice, it was his sixth win in as many starts at Hollywood Park over the past two seasons, including his earth-shaking victory over Seattle Slew in last July's Swaps Stakes.


For his latest success the four-year-old son of Never Bend earned $124,550, upping his career total to $606,805, $302,350 of which he has picked up this year.


Carrying 126 pounds..., J. O. Tobin, as tractable as a sheep dog, was reserved off the early pace set by Replant and prompted by Bad 'n Big. (Barrera gave 'Tobin a nine-furlong gallop the morning of the race.)


[Barrera told George A. Pope, Jr. breeder and owner of J. O. Tobin] "Each race he's run here has been better than the one before it. I told Steve not to worry about going to the front. He rode him perfectly."



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