For Jenine Sahadi, life at the racetrack has come full circle.
After graduating from college, she began working at Hollywood Park, filling a variety of roles in marketing and publicity for track CEO Marje Everett.
“I had so much respect for Marje and she treated me like one of her children,” Sahadi said. “She loved the game and was so smart. I learned so much from her.”
Now, at the age of 55, she’s working in the racing office at Del Mar as a horseman’s liaison.
“Working in the racing office is easy for me to do and it keeps me involved in racing the way I want to be,” Sahadi said. “I live five minutes from the track and I enjoy seeing and helping so many of the people I’ve known for a long time.”
Yet in between those years, she worked in a much different and prominent role.
Over the course of nearly 20 years, Sahadi was a ground-breaking trainer who enjoyed great success at California’s premier racetracks.
From 1993 through 2011, she won 441 races and her horses earned $26.6 million with 10 Grade 1 wins. Her best years were 1996 when she won 52 races and earned $3.46 million, and 1997 when her totals were 55 wins and $3.43 million In earnings.
When she won the 2000 Santa Anita Derby with Team Valor’s The Deputy, she became the only female trainer with a victory in California’s premier Kentucky Derby prep. The Deputy then finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, which turned out to be his final start.
“Winning the Santa Anita Derby was an amazing thrill,” said Sahadi, who also trained the multiple Grade 1 winner Golden Ballet for Team Valor. “The Deputy was a cool horse. Everyone loved him.”
She also became the first of seven female trainers to win a Breeders’ Cup race when Lit de Justice, a $1.2 million earner, captured the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Woodbine for the Evergreen Farm of C.N. and Carol Ray.
Mindful of Sahadi’s caring work with animals since the day when she received a horse as a high school graduation present, the Rays were instrumental in launching her training career and convincing her to move from the frontside of the racetrack to the backside. They also were tremendously supportive of her work, giving her as many as 40 horses to train at one point.
“Any time you can win a race like the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and be a trailblazer, it’s an accomplishment,” said Sahadi, a past president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers. “I’m super proud of it.”
A year later, she became the only female trainer to claim two Breeders’ Cup wins when she won the 1997 BC Sprint with Elmhurst at Hollywood Park. Given the accomplishment and setting, Sahadi’s second Breeders’ Cup win was her most uplifting moment as a trainer.
“Winning the Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park was such a great moment because I had worked there for so many years for Marje Everett before I started training. It was winning at home for me. That was fun,” said Sahadi, who co-owned Elmhurst along with Evergreen Farm. “I knew every person there. Every worker, every usher. It was so special.”
By 2011, Sahadi was growing frustrated with the inherent problems of competing with larger stables and keeping and attracting owners. When her primary owner at the time, Green Lantern Stables, moved their operation to Kentucky, it presented Sahadi with an opportunity to bow out of the game on her own terms.
“When Green Lantern decided to leave California that was the push I needed to give up training,” Sahadi said. “I didn’t want to hustle new owners. I wasn’t motivated to do that. I had enjoyed some great days in racing and was fine with retiring from that end of the game.”
Aside from her work at Del Mar, Sahadi also serves as President of the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of backstretch workers in California.
“We started the Gregson Foundation about 19 years ago. It is an amazing effort by everyone that puts backstretch workers’ children through college and provide some great help to needy people,” Sahadi said. “We’re still going strong. Every penny we raise goes to kids or backstretch programs.”
Through working at Del Mar and with the Gregson Foundation, Sahadi says she gets her fill of racing and she has no desire to resume training, which is not surprising. Having come full circle in racing, she’s back where she started and back where she wants to be.