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Breeder-trainer Mobberley, 66, dies of cancer


John Calvin "Jack" Mobberley, one of Maryland's most popular and respected horsemen, died at his farm in West Friendship on Monday after an eight-month battle with cancer. He was 66.

The owner, trainer and breeder not only developed many stakes-winning thoroughbreds at area tracks, but also gave freely of his time by serving as an officer and director of many industry-related organizations.

"He was a great compromiser. If there was a big confrontation, he tried to cool it and get both parties to settle for less," said C. Snowden Carter, former executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association, where Mobberley served as a director for 17 years and as vice president for the last four years.

The organization's executive vice president, Rich Wilcke, said Mobberley was to become MHBA president this spring.

"There wasn't anybody that didn't like Jack," Wilcke said. "He was a great ambassador for racing."

Mobberley also served as a director and was a former vice president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, and before that was a director of the Maryland division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

"He probably served longer on the board of a horsemen's organization than anyone else in the state," said MTHA counsel Alan Foreman. "Not only was he universally liked and respected by his fellow horsemen, but he was an impact player, both with the racing commission and the legislature. I don't think there was ever any kind of ruling against Jack. He played by the rules and was a credit to the game."

Wilcke said Mobberley recently chaired the Statewide Committee for the MHBA, which was an effort to involve horsemen from around the state in the organization and was instrumental in helping to form the state's system of off-track betting parlors.

Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis lauded Mobberley, saying he added level-headed thinking to sometimes explosive negotiations between management and horsemen.

"He was a consensus builder," De Francis said. "He helped bring people together from extreme opposite trains of thought. People felt confident that he had everyone's best interests at heart."

In addition to his long tenures on the MHBA and MTHA boards, Mobberley was also a director of the Maryland State Fair and the Maryland Thoroughbred Backstretch Assistance Fund, and also served as race secretary for the Howard County Cup steeplechase races.

Mobberley was born in Arlington, Va., and began his career with horses at an early age. He competed as a youngster with his junior hunter, Memory Lane, on the Virginia show circuit. After graduating from Washington and Lee High School in Fairfax, he entered Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Mobberley studied agriculture at VPI and met his future wife, a pre-veterinary student, Gretchen Buren, at the school. After graduation, Mobberley and Buren were married and eventually opened a boarding and sales stable in Middleburg, Va., specializing in hunters and jumpers.

The couple then gravitated to breaking thoroughbred yearlings and to training horses at the Maryland tracks, moving to Howard County in 1963.

Among the graded stakes winners trained by Mobberley were Sarre Green, Scotch Heather, Applause and Jet Stream, as well as numerous other added-money winners such as All Ahead and Midnight Call.

Mobberley was a versatile horseman and was a frequent member of the field of the Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds in Glenelg.

About four years ago, Mobberley retired from training, and his wife and daughter Bird, both licensed trainers, took over operation of the racing stable.

Mobberley devoted his time to riding and to running his 135-acre Summer Hill Farm, where there is also a sizable horse show as well as a thoroughbred breeding operation. Mobberley also owned two other farms in the area.

A memorial service for Mobberley will be held at 1 p.m. on Monday at Union Chapel at the intersection of Route 97 and Union Chapel Road in Glenwood. Mobberley's body will be cremated and his ashes will be buried at Summer Hill Farm on a hill overlooking the horse paddocks.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations in Mobberley's name may be made to the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund, 1050 State Highway 35, Shrewsbury, N.J. 07702, or to the Horsemen's Backstretch Assistance Fund, c/o Laurel Park, Laurel.

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