Elmer Januaryl aughed when asked if he was ready to celebrate a special birthday this Saturday.
“What? I stopped celebrating birthdays a long time ago,” he added with a laugh.
His friends and racetrack family, however, could not forget that on Saturday, May 14, Elmer will turn 90-years young while still going strong in the sport of horse racing. Born in 1926, Elmer is the dean of Quarter Horse trainers at the Orange County oval. He is also the only remaining active member of the current training colony who was plying his trade during the inaugural Los Alamitos meeting in 1951. This was also that same year that Elmer recorded his first training victory. And to this day, January can be found at Los Alamitos just about every racing night.
“I just love training horses,” Elmer said. “I love horses. I’ve always liked Los Alamitos and always loved the track. It’s always fun here and it’s great to put on a good show.”
A native of Vernon, Texas, his family moved to California when he was 7. After he served in World War II, Elmer became involved with Quarter Horses through some friends. He,and his black silks with the colorful rooster on the back, have been a permanent fixture ever since, winning more than 500 races to go along with his share of Quarter Horse stakes races. In addition to maintaining a healthy stable of horses at Los Alamitos, January also keeps race horses at his 72-acre January Ranch in Sanger, California,which is overseen by his son, Randall. Elmer lost his loving wife Charlene several years ago, but he is also blessed with two granddaughters and four great-granddaughters. When asked about his top performers, Elmer picks out 1996 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity hero and Los Alamitos Million starter Primo High and Tom Lydon,who captured the first-ever Evangeline Derby in Louisiana.
“It was a real thrill to have a starter in (the second ever) runnings of Los Alamitos Million,” Elmer related. “I’ve also been lucky to be associated with some of the top jockeys who have ridden here over the years, like John Watson, Terry Lipham and Bobby Adair.”
Elmer also saddled Best of Me to victory in the Kaweah Bar Handicap in 1983 and Manus Mark in the Marathon Handicap in 1984. He took the Bayer Legend California Challenge with A Mere First in 1996 and the Ivan Ashment Handicap with Classic Tol in 2004.
In 1995, January was asked what his goal in racing would be. He answered, “I would love to train another 10 to 20 years.” Elmer has done just that. If he was asked that question today, the answer would likely remain the same.