Hall of Famer J.
Elliott Burch, who trained Belmont Stakes winners Sword Dancer, Quadrangle, and
Arts and Letters, died Saturday at Newport Hospital in Rhode Island of complications from pneumonia.
He was 86.
Burch, the son of Hall of Fame
trainer Preston Burch and grandson of Hall of Fame trainer William Burch, began
his 30-year training career on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA)
circuit in 1955 and went on to saddle more than 60 stakes winners and six
champions. In addition to Horses of the Year Sword Dancer (1959), Arts and
Letters (1969) and Fort Marcy (co-champion in 1970), Burch also trained top
thoroughbreds Quadrangle, who won the Belmont in 1964; Bowl of Flowers, the top
2-year-old and 3-year-old filly of 1960 and 1961, and Key to the Mint, who won
the 1972 Travers, Woodward, and Brooklyn Handicap on the way to becoming that
year’s 3-Year-Old Champion.
“Elliott Burch was inducted into the Hall of Fame the same
year that I became a racing fan,” said NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward. “I had the good fortune to meet Mr.
Burch as I was friends with all of his children. We all know that he was a
brilliant trainer and a great horseman. He was also a devoted father who cared
deeply for his family. He was an avid reader and I enjoyed hearing
him speak about his favorite books. Elliott Burch will be missed
and we should all thank him for the many contributions that he made to
Born on March 3, 1924, in
Washington, D.C., Burch served in the Army Signal Corps
during World War II before going to work for The Daily Racing Form as a writer. He
then began working for his father at Isabel Dodge Sloane’s Brookmeade Stable,
taking over as head trainer in 1957. Two years later, he saddled Brookmeade’s
3-year-old Sword Dancer to win not only the Belmont Stakes but the Travers,
Metropolitan Handicap, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup en route to a host of
In 1964, Burch began training for
Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stables, for whom he trained Quadrangle, Fort Marcy, Key to the Mint and Arts and
Letters as well as Run the Gantlet, 1971’s champion Male Turf Horse, and Summer
Guest, winner of the 1972 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Burch, formerly of Garden City,
N.Y., was inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1980 and retired in 1985,
moving to Rhode
Island in 1988.
Predeceased by his wife, Phyllis
Hammond Burch, Burch was the father of one daughter, Jehanne Burch, of
Middletown, R.I., and three sons: Daniel and his wife
Patricia of Manhasset, N.Y., Richard and his wife Margaret of Charlotte, N.C.,
and the late William E. Burch. He had four grandchildren, Kathryn, Mackenzie,
Charlotte and Olivia.
Friends and family are invited to
calling hours on Thursday, February 3, from 5 -7 p.m. at the O’Neill-Hayes
Funeral Home, 465 Spring Street, Newport, R.I.
A memorial service will be held
at the United Congregational Church, 524 Valley Road, Middletown, R.I., on Saturday, February 12 at 11:30
In lieu of flowers, donations may
be made to Newport Hospital or the National Museum of Racing in
Saratoga Springs, N.Y. at www.racingmuseum.org.