Shear, who stands four feet, ten inches and weighs 105 pounds, garnered national attention when he instinctively shielded a five year old girl from a runaway horse on March 12, 2011, can still be found manning a rope and otherwise “quarterbacking” the ebb and flow of horses and people in Santa Anita’s picturesque Paddock Gardens area each race day.
“I love coming to work here, I really do,” said Shear, who has been employed in various roles at Santa Anita for more than five decades. “Everyone is friendly. The jockeys, the trainers, owners and the fans. The people that come here for the races are so kind and thoughtful. I’ve known many of them for quite a few years and I’ve known their children since many of them were young. It’s like greeting extended family.
“Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t working. It keeps me sharp and I truly love the routine and everything about it. I’m blessed, I really am.”
When asked about his birthday plans for Sunday, Shear responded, “I’m fit and ready.” (And he means it, as his regular exercise regimen includes 60 pushups a day).
Shear, who resides with his wife Diane in nearby Sierra Madre, and has one son, Michael, who lives in San Diego, still enjoys an occasional trip to Las Vegas.
“I go about twice a year,” Shear said. “Gail McNeil, who used to run the press elevator here, takes me up there and it’s a lot of fun. I like to play poker and I hold my own pretty good.”
Whether he holds ‘em or folds ‘em, thousands of race goers can readily attest that Santa Anita’s John Shear is still being dealt his share of aces each racing day.