LARC NEWS Posted: 12/8/2023 12:56:11 AM

BERNIE PICA, LONGTIME QUARTER HORSE OWNER, DIES AT AGE 86

       Bernie Pica, who owned and raced horses at Los Alamitos since the late 1960s and was an ever-present figure in the track’s Vessels Club, passed away on Monday, December 4 at the age of 86.

      Pica was a graded stakes winning owner at Los Alamitos, and his horses included the Grade 1 Marathon Handicap winner Two Stepping Alibi and Governor’s Cup Futurity finalist Good Jazz, who he owned in partnership with his son, Tony.  

        A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Pica moved to Southern California in 1951, the same year that Los Alamitos Race Course held its first pari-mutuel meeting. Pica, who attended Anaheim High School, became enamored with Quarter Horse racing as a teenager, in part because many of his school friends were either the sons of trainers or would eventually become trainers themselves. As a result, Pica, who lived in Los Alamitos, grew up listening to fascinating stories about the track and would eventually get even more involved in the sport.  

       Prior to becoming a racehorse owner, Bernie married Barbara Carson in 1964. Four years later, Pica acquired his first racehorse, purchasing a claiming level horse, which provided the couple a lot of fun times at the Orange County track. One horse led to another and in 1972, Pica claimed Moolah Diamond for $4,000. Although he had not won in 32 previous races, the 7-year-old gelding won first out for Pica and trainer Earl Holmes, a former schoolmate.  Moolah Diamond eventually went on to capture allowance races and place in stakes races. He also became Barbara’s favorite racehorse.

       When he first became a racehorse owner, Pica had a job as a carpenter. Then in 1973, Pica started working as a horse transporter, which led to his involvement in one of Quarter Horse racing’s most famous stories, the rescue of Town Policy.

     Five days after winning the 1977 Fresno Futurity, Town Policy was kidnapped from trainer Blane Schvaneveldt’s barn and mysteriously sold in Mexico.  Found by jockeys from Los Alamitos Race Course five months later and 150 pounds lighter, a dramatic rescue operation involving Mexican policemen helped bring the horse back to the United States. It was Pica, who helped transport Town Policy safely back to Schvaneveldt’s barn after the horse had crossed the United States border.  Less than three months after his return, Town Policy captured the 1978 Los Alamitos Derby.

       Twenty years later, Pica claimed Two Steppin Alibi for $2,500 in 1997. The following year, the Rodney Hart-trainee won the 870-yard Marathon National at Los Alamitos, as he defeated an all-star cast that included 1994 All American Futurity winner Noblesse Six, and distance stakes winners Comus, Timothy Pilot, Prevailing Winds Daggers N Darkness, Jake Blues, and No Pet Peeves. It was the Picas’ biggest win at the Orange County oval and one that afficionados of Quarter Horse distance races still remember fondly.

      In the years that followed, the Picas rarely missed a weekend of racing at Los Alamitos. Barbara passed away in December of 2019 from complications of Alzheimer’s. After a very difficult 2020, Bernie Pica returned to visiting the Vessels Club and Los Alamitos at the first opportunity following the COVID-19 pandemic. He continued to make his regular visits to the track ever since. Pica’s daughter-in-law, Dana, said that he always looked forward to attending the races at Los Al.

     Bernie Pica is survived by his two sons, Tony and Lou, Tony’s wife, Dana, and a total of three grandchildren. The family is planning a celebration of life in Bernie’s honor in January of 2024. For more information, please call 714-820-2690.        

 

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