Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) has named two Rookie of the Year award winners for 2022. Winners Robert Katayama of Clovis and Lisa Rodrigues of San Diego were among 13 nominees for the award, which is designed to honor enthusiastic new owners that are committed to racing in California. The TOC owner relations committee considers nominations on an annual basis and was impressed by the 2022 list of nominees.
“The TOC Owner Relations Committee looks forward to the Rookie of the Year nominations and awards each year,” said Owner Relations Chairwoman, Stephanie Hronis. “We celebrate new owners and their commitment and appreciation of the equine athlete. This year we are thrilled to recognize a Rookie of the Year for the north and the south – Robert and Lisa. To the winners and all nominees, congratulations and welcome to the owner community!”
Robert Katayama, who races under TAK Racing, has horses in training with Jonathan Wong. He was introduced to the business by his grandfather who loved horse racing and would travel to Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows to watch in person. In 2021, Katayama met TOC board member Johnny Taboada by the paddock at the Fresno Fair. Taboada introduced him to Jonathan Wong, and the rest – as they say – is history.
Katayama recalls, “My relationship with the two of them (Taboada and Wong) really took off later that year at the Breeders’ Cup in Del Mar. I was fully brought into ownership and wanted my family to get involved as well. The summer of 2022 was when things started to develop, and our family decided to go for it.”
Once they went for it, deciding on a stable name was no trouble at all, Katayama explains. “When it was time to come up with a stable name, it was a clear and easy decision. My grandfather, who passed away when I was a kid, got us all interested in the game, so it was clear we should name the stable after him. People knew him as Tak, so we named our stable TAK Racing. He would be very proud of my family for taking on this new adventure.”
In addition to horse ownership, Katayama owns multiple boxes at the Fresno Fair and works hard to get more people involved. He also recognizes the importance of the team on the backstretch and hosts a big BBQ during the Fresno Fair for the horsemen.
“I would like to recognize Johnny Taboada and Jonathan Wong,” said Katayama. “Johnny has been helpful along the way and Jonathan deserves a lot of the credit for this. None of this would be possible without him; he has treated us like family since day one and we cannot thank him enough.
Lisa Rodrigues was nominated for the Rookie of the Year award by her good friend, Joni Correia. Lisa and Joni have been tangentially involved in horse ownership since 2008, when their husbands formed a syndicate. After sitting on the sidelines for a few years, they both took the plunge and became licensed owners for the first time in 2022.
“It all started back in 2008, when my husband, Bob, and his close friend Joe Correia formed a small syndicate named Wire to Wire Stables. They both grew up in Point Loma and as young kids frequently went to the Del Mar racetrack with their parents,” said Lisa. “Joni and I were both skeptical at the time, but we supported them through all the highs and lows of owning race horses; and believe me – the highs are high and the lows are low – really nothing in between!”
During Lisa and Joni’s first year as licensed owners, Wire to Wire Stables, in partnership with Altamira Racing Stable, CYBT, Jeff Fink and Michael Nentwig, purchased two horses – Quagmire Magic and Castleknock. Quagmire Magic won his first start as a two-year-old before getting claimed and Castleknock earned over $100,000. They were hooked!
In addition to the fun at the track, Lisa and her partners enjoy visiting their horses at San Luis Rey Downs, spending time at the barn and watching the horses train. She recalls the devastating Lilac Fire in 2017 and how the equine industry came together to support all those impacted; they helped gather clothing and essential items for the families who were displaced.
Thoroughbred Owners of California recognizes the commitment required by owners and appreciate their ongoing contributions to an industry we cherish. The opportunity to honor new owners as Rookie(s) of the Year is one that we do not take lightly – here’s to the continued success and enjoyment of Robert and Lisa – and all the rookies to come! If you know of a candidate for the 2023 Rookie of the Year Award, you can nominate here.