Debra Horrocks has had her share of difficult moments in recent years. First, her mother, Millie, passed away in 1995, leaving her as the one to carry on their mutual love for horse racing. Horrocks experienced additional personal tragedy earlier this year after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
"But I'm doing well now," she said. "Chemotherapy tires me out sometimes but I still try to make it to the races as much as I can. I used to come out about twice a week. I don't make out here as much, but I try. If I can't make it, then I make sure to tape the replay show."
Through it all, Horrocks has continued to make time for the sport that she and her mother loved so much. As a frequent visitor to racetracks almost her entire life, she fondly remembers going to watch the ponies run for the first time with her mother when she was about five.
"My mom is the reason that I love racing so much," she said. "I would go to the track with her all the time. My mom really loved the horses and I grew up loving them as well."
Their passion led them to become partners in owning racehorses some 18 years ago. The mother/daughter team would enjoy some memorable moments thanks to their racing foray.
"We finished third in a Quarter Horse stakes race at Hollywood Park with a horse that we claimed," Horrocks recalled. "The horse's name was Illustrious Sir and I believe we got him out of a $5,000 maiden claiming race. He had a big heart and started winning races. He won something like three straight before that third place finish in 1986."
Horrocks had a good reason to visit the track on May 3 as Fly Home First, a Strawfly Special gelding she co-owns with Double Bar S Ranch, was making his second outing of the year. Also bred by Horrocks, Fly Home First lived up to his name, outdueling a field that included several royally bred sprinters to win the 350-yard race. The sorrel gelding not only brought a smile to Horrocks' face, he also helped take her on a sweet trip down memory lane.
"My mom and I bred the mother of this horse so that makes this nicer," she explained. "He's a second generation homebred and I still own his mom (Dash For Debbie). There'll be a couple of full sisters to Fly Home First coming up to race in the next few years."
As her fight against breast cancer continues, Horrocks is determined to be here to watch her new babies run at Los Alamitos. Meanwhile, she'll also keep working full-time as a purchasing agent for engineering parts at an aerospace company in order to offset the costs of owning horses.
"I still love racing as much as I ever did. And it makes me feel good to continue to be involved in something that my mom and I did together."