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Waldron a friend and foe

Bill Waldron is at the top of his trade but not one on a high horse. He will go as far as helping a fellow owner in need on the day of a big event.

By BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- Joy Cox was in a bind.

Her prized Arabian racer, Rare Chance, needed a shoe replaced, and the call to post for the fifth race at Tampa Bay Downs was forthcoming.

Bill Waldron had enough to worry about with his two entrants, but the old Brooksville farrier couldn't deny a fellow owner in need.

"I'm very fussy about who does my farrier work, and my trainer said Bill was willing to do it," Cox said. "He came over and reshod him all the way around.

"He always goes that extra mile for his fellow horsemen," Cox said.

So how did Cox reward the gesture?

"My horse won," she chuckled. "It's always friendly with Bill, always a positive word. I think our next conversation with him was him saying, "Never again.' But I don't believe that either."

Waldron has enjoyed enough good fortune in 20 years of racing to spread some around.

A career as an owner/breeder/trainer that began when he and his ex-wife, Dianne, began running their endurance horses has taken the 64-year-old cowboy from the sandy tracks of Ocala to the sands of Dubai.

"I never really imagined this," Waldron said. "It all kind of worked out, I guess."

What started out as "play day" eventually blossomed into a career in which he has become one of the best in his trade.

"Dianne and I knew this fella that had Arbian race horses, and he asked me to bring some endurance horses to Ocala to create numbers for the races," Waldron said. "Ours were extremely fit and they started winning, so we started running in Tampa and eventually we ended up in Pompano Park and Los Alamitos (Calif.)."

They've kept winning.

Waldron has won nearly 300 races -- more than 50 of them stakes -- numerous state and national awards for top horse, trainer, and owner, and finished fourth in the nation in 1998 with $316,919 in earnings. Through April 30, he had the nation's top money-earning 3-year-old colt/gelding (Big Burn, $5,255) and was sixth on the earnings list for trainers ($32,853).

Waldron owns 20 horses, including a handful of thoroughbreds, and trains for Goldolphin Racing proprietor Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In 1998, Waldron's Mr Full Service won the Grade I $100,000 Godolphin Classic and Armand Hammer Handicap and was named champion older horse at the Florida-Bred Awards. He is second on the all-time earnings list for Arabians, with more than $300,000.

Waldron's foundation sire, 20-year-old ZT Ali Baba, stands at stud in Brooksville and is a member of the Arabian racing hall of fame.

Dianne Waldron remains extremely active and successful. The Brooksville insurance executive leads the nation in earnings by a breeder ($86,500) and owner ($76,373) through April 30.

Bill Waldron claims that there's no trade secret he employs -- just the common sense he learned from mentor "Uncle" John Law Ayers and from his time working his parents' cattle. As Cathy says, "He never does anything fun." Waldron does often swim with his horses in a facility on his 120-acre farm outside of Brooksville. "There's nothing different about what I do other than the fact we treat each horse individually," he said. "It's like people. Individuals are good and individuals are bad."

Racing Arabians broughtWaldron more than a new career. It brought him his wife, Cathy, whom he married in 1991 and with whom he has his fourth child, 9-year-old Ben.

It started innocently enough.

"I wanted a pet, and I bought a horse called Proud Mary from him," said Cathy, who had a Shetland pony and an old quarterhorse back in her home of New Castle, Del. "He was at Delaware Park racing and we had a mutual friend who knew he had horses for sale.

"I bought her just before he came back to Florida and I saw him the following year because he wanted to see how the filly was doing," she said. "So, basically, I bought the farm when I bought the horse."

She later sold the horse to Sheikh Mohammed, who uses her as a broodmare.

Waldron said he plans to continue training until he's physically unable. He considers that date "a long way off."

"It's a really good business and I enjoy it," Waldron said. "There's money to be made. The only bad part of it is the ridiculous amount of time you have to spend away from your family."

Chasing some of the better purses for Arabians in the country, Waldron is racing at Delaware Park, bunking in the house his wife occupied before she moved south.

His presence is felt back home. "Arabian racing in Florida would be hard-pressed to make it without Bill Waldron," Cox said. "He does that much for the industry."

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