Throwback Thursday: Lost But Resourceful, Sanchez Improvised For 1960 Tevis Cup Win

Sep 3, 2020 - 8:16 AM

The Tevis Cup, that infamous 100-mile endurance ride across some of the most difficult terrain California and Nevada has to offer, has gone virtual this year like so many other races thanks to COVID-19. Participants may submit 100 miles at their own pace on their own trails at some point between Aug. 1 and Nov. 9 to the Western States Trail Foundation as a fundraiser to support the foundation instead. (You can walk, run or bike too, if you don’t want to ride the full distance.)

Since there won’t be any breathtaking photos of climbing Cougar Rock this year, we thought we’d take you back 60 years to one of the stranger editions of the Tevis Cup, when it was won by a polo trainer aboard his Thoroughbred-mustang cross and reported on in the Oct. 28, 1960, issue of the Chronicle. 

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Ernie Sanchez, a polo trainer from Woodside, California, rode his Thoroughbred-mustang mount, Marco B, to win the 1960 Tevis Cup. L. J. Larson Photo

“At a dinner sponsored by the Auburn California Chamber of Commerce for some 400 contestants, their families and interested horseman, Ernie Sanchez of Woodside, California, riding Marco B was announced the 1960 winner of the Lloyd Tevis Grand Award for Horsemanship and winner of the 100 Mile One Day Endurance Ride.

Sanchez, in winning this well controlled and greatest of all endurance rides sponsored by the Western States Trail Ride, Inc. of Auburn, established a fantastic new time of 14 hours and 35 minutes; setting a pace which enabled eight other of the 43 contestants to break the previous record time of 18 hours. It was not all smooth sailing for Sanchez, however; at one time he was discovered by the official ride photographer to be 4 ½ miles off the trail and was guided back.

Not long after this delaying experience his mount lost a shoe. Digging around in the debris of an abandoned mining camp, Sanchez found a mule shoe, small, but still some protection from the rocky trail, if only he had some nails to hold it. By ripping shingles from an old building and worrying the nails out, he was able to toe tack the shoe on and make it hold long enough to get to the next checkpoint before his horse became footsore. After re-shoeing, Sanchez had to increase his pace to regain the lead he had lost—(estimated time loss 85 minutes).

Leaving the final check stop, Sanchez was in third position. Since it was now dark and he was afraid of getting lost again, Sanchez decided to stay right with Wendell Robie, president of the Western Trail group, who had laid out the course. Robie, one of the greatest and most rugged endurance riders, was beautifully mounted on John Rodgers’ Arabian, Anktor, which Sanchez believed was the horse he had to beat.

This proved to be sound judgment, since they soon passed Betty Jay of Sacramento, California, who was making a terrific bid, but could not maintain the pace. Robie and Sanchez rode the last five miles at an amazingly fast clip. It was neck and neck all the way, the deciding factor being Sanchez’s maneuver of changing sides with Robie so he would be on the inside making the turn into the Fairgrounds gate (the finish line). Since the ride rules state the winner will be the first horse to finish in good condition, it was not known, even to the judges, which horse was the winner until after re-examination of both at noon the following day.

Since both horses were in acceptable condition, Sanchez’s mount was declared the winner—he had passed through the gate under the finish line sign first.

Robie, 66, took second place; Count Frederic von Lederbur of Austria, 67, rode a strange horse to eighth place, and Betty Jay, 16, placed third. The winning horse, a polo pony belonging to Dr. Schulte of Woodside, California, was half Thoroughbred and half mustang.”

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