Santa Anita Paddock Captain John Shear Passes At 102

John Shear | Benoit

Santa Anita's popular Paddock Captain, John Shear passed away Tuesday from natural causes at age 102 in a rehabilitation facility in Arcadia, according to a statement from the Shear family that was shared via a racetrack press release.

Beloved by the many fans with whom he came in contact, as well as by his fellow employees, jockeys and horsemen, Shear opted to retire at age 100 in 2021. That same year he was honored by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters with the Mr. Fitz Award for typifying the spirit of racing.

“John will be deeply missed by countless life-long friends here at Santa Anita,” said Nate Newby, Santa Anita Senior Vice President and General Manager.  “We were honored to have him as part of the Santa Anita family for more than 60 years of dedicated service and we'll never forget him.”

Born Jan. 17, 1921 in England, Shear was raised in an orphanage from age four to 14. At four feet, 11 inches, Shear, who sustained a shoulder injury while serving in an anti-aircraft unit during World War II, originally aspired to be a jockey and following the war, he emigrated to Vancouver, B.C., from where he came to Santa Anita as an exercise boy in 1954.

Shear, who was an assistant trainer when he first began working in Santa Anita's parking lot in 1961, led an amazing life and remained fit thanks to a good diet and a consistent exercise regimen.

He earned national acclaim at age 90, when on March 12, 2011, he saved a 5-year-old girl from catastrophic injury when he shielded her from a loose horse that bolted out of Santa Anita's Seabiscuit Walking Ring.

John Shear is survived by his wife, Diane and their son, Michael Shear, who said that at some point in the near future, the family would have a private ceremony in honor of his father.

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