ARCADIA, Calif. -- Most Santa Anita Park regulars are familiar with John Shear, but the 90-year-old paddock guard added to his notoriety Saturday afternoon when the former jockey endangered his life to save a young girl.
According to a track spokesperson, Shear was standing in his usual post of holding the rope at the track's walking ring prior to the third race, when Sea and Sage, a 3-year-old gelding, broke free from a handler and rushed toward the opening at the perimeter of the ring. Instead of scurrying to safety, Shear moved into the path of the horse and on top of the girl, shielding the toddler from the oncoming thoroughbred.
Sea and Sage collided with Shear. The longtime trackman and Santa Anita fixture remained conscious and responsive. He received first aid from track personnel and the City of Arcadia Fire Dept. before being taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena for further evaluation.
Shear was coherent and stable on Sunday.
"His voice wasn't good and his face was black and blue [on Saturday]," said Shear's son, Mike. "I went back [Sunday] to see him at 10:30 and there was a complete, 180 degree turnaround. He was sitting upright, talking, laughing and completely coherent and he's stable."
The girl, estimated to be 3 or 4 years old, was unharmed. According to the spokesperson, the girl's parents later phoned the track and expressed deep gratitude for Shear's act of courage.
Sea and Sage was not injured, and he was corraled in the stable area before being led back to his stall in the barn of trainer Gary Mandella.