Trainer John Forbes Passes at 73

Horse Racing Radar
Valerie Mellema
Valerie Mellema is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sunday, January 31st, longtime trainer and president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association passed away at the age of 73.

Forbes was born in Maryland and spent his entire career in the racing industry, following the legacy of both of his parents. He moved his operations to New Jersey in the late 1970s, where he remained for the duration of his career. 

"John was New Jersey racing," said Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darb Development LLC, operators of Monmouth Park Racetrack. "He was a tireless advocate for the industry, for the horsemen and for Monmouth Park. With a boundless capacity for kindness, John embodied everything good about this business - honor, integrity, compassion and selflessness. More than that, John had an infectious energy for racing. I will forever cherish our many years working together and appreciate not just our friendship but our collective effort on behalf of the horsemen to better this industry and the lives of those who work in it."

Forbes had more than 14,000 starters, from which he won over 2,100 races as a trainer. He had a long list of accomplished runners which included TALE OF THE CAT, PEANUT BUTTER ONIT, PUKKA PRINCESS, BOYCE, AMARILLO, JESS C'S WHIRL, and GET SERIOUS. TALE OF THE CAT went on to be a leading sire. 

Forbes quit training on a daily basis in 2012, but remained as a presence on the Monmouth Park grounds. He gave up his trainer's license and handed his business over to his longtime assistant Pat McBurney. 

He then embarked on a new project that year, starting Bluegrass Mini Golf, overwhich he managed the constructions and operation. He was instrumental in developing the US Mini Golf Open in 2014 and 2017. His work earned him a spot in the US ProMiniGolf Hall of Fame. 

Forbes leaves behind his wife Vicki, son John T. Forbes (Director of Operations at Monmouth Park), two daughters, Anne and Carrie, and two grandchildren. 

No services will be held due to COVID-19. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Forbes's name to the Backstretch Community Assistance Program, whose address is 175 Oceanport Ave., Oceanport, NJ 07757. 

The Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association released the following statement on Forbes' death:

"We are incredibly saddened by the passing of our friend, colleague and mentor John Forbes.

"Born to a family of horsemen, John was the consummate horseman. He was old-school. He was devoted to the horse, the industry and its people. He was never satisfied with the status quo. He demanded of the industry that which he expected of himself — honesty, integrity, hard work and an unrelenting determination to protect the health, safety and welfare of the horse, the integrity of our sport and the welfare of those who worked on the backstretch. He was a generous, compassionate and decent man. He was beloved and respected by everyone who knew and worked with him.

"In 1987, John asked his friend Alan Foreman to help form a new horsemen's organization that would be progressive and strengthen the voice of horsemen in the industry. Rick Violette joined the effort thereafter and the THA was born. But for John, there would not be a THA, and the record of the THA's impact on the industry can easily be measured since that time. There is not an issue involving the health, safety and welfare of the horse and the integrity of our sport that doesn't have John's fingerprints on it. In recognition of his lifetime of service to horsemen, the industry and the THA, we proudly honored him with our President's Award in 2018.

"Just as important, John was a giant in New Jersey racing. He loved Monmouth Park and was devoted to its survival and success. He was New Jersey's greatest trainer, and when he retired from training, did what he could to ensure Monmouth's survival, including constructing and operating a world-renowned miniature golf course on the property that hosted two U.S. Opens and earned him a spot in the Pro Mini Golf Hall of Fame. We think it fair to say that but for John Forbes, there would be no Thoroughbred racing industry in New Jersey.

Our deepest condolences to Vicki, John T, Anne and Carrie, his colleagues Mike Musto and Dennis Drazin, his trainer/partner Pat McBurney and his multitude of friends. We will miss him and pledge to honor his memory."

Photo: Trainer John Forbes guides Tale Of The Cat and Jockey Julie Krone off the track at Monmouth Park after a morning workout. 10/13/98


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