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Shear retiring from Hollywood Park after half a century

John Shear will still be at his post at Santa Anita (Benoit Photos)
John Shear, a familiar face in the paddock at Hollywood Park since 1962, will work his final day at the track Sunday.

Shear, who will turn 92 in January, isn't completely retiring from the sport he loves. He will be working the paddock when Santa Anita, which is only three miles from the home he shares with wife Diane, begins its winter/spring meet December 26.

Severely injured in March of last year when he heroically stepped into the path of a loose horse in the walking ring at Santa Anita to protect a six-year-old girl, Shear said he will miss Hollywood Park, but plans on visiting often during the 2013 spring/summer season.

"Horses have always been my life and I'm going to miss the people," he said. "I love people and love to talk to them.

"I became friends with a lot of celebrities through the years. Cary Grant used to seek me out every morning to have a conversation and Howard Koch was a very good friend of mine.

"Plus all the jockeys and trainers. I remember how Bill Shoemaker used to play what was called Racetrack Rummy. He would have rather sat and played a game than ridden a horse."

Certain Thoroughbreds who have excelled at Hollywood Park also hold a special place in Shear's memory. There are quite a few, he said, but a couple came quickly to mind.

"Of course, Zenyatta," Shear said. "She was a very special mare and brought a lot of excitement every time she ran.

"Native Diver won three consecutive Hollywood Gold Cups (1965-67) and was a brilliant horse and his trainer (Buster Millerick) was a friend of mine."

Eual Wyatt Jr., Hollywood Park's vice president and general manager, said Shear will definitely be missed.

"The paddock won't be the same without him," Wyatt said. "He's been an extremely loyal and valuable employee, and his love of horse racing is obvious to anyone who knows him."

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