In memoriam: People and equine stars horse racing lost in 2020

In memoriam: People and equine stars horse racing lost in 2020
Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

With 2020 behind us, we reflect on prominent names the horse-racing industry lost last year, both human and equine.

Barry Abrams — A highly accomplished trainer of standardbreds and Thoroughbreds, Abrams had 688 wins from 6,096 starters and earnings of $30.7 million. Based at Santa Anita, he battled throat cancer for 15 years. He died in October at age 66 after being taken off a ventilator following a fall at his home.

Fred Aime— Aime served as Hall of Fame Jockey Pat Day’s agent for much of his career, including for Day’s 1992 Kentucky Derby victory. He died on Dec. 30 at age 70 after a long battle with cancer.

Frank Alexander — The longtime trainer died in June at age 82. His biggest win was the 1994 Breeders' Cup Sprint with Cherokee Run, who won an Eclipse Award as the year's outstanding sprinter.

Kenneth Bourque — Bourque was a jockey for 30 years, from 1969 to 1999, retiring with 2,467 career victories. He died of cancer on Dec. 29 at age 67.

Roger Brueggemann — The Illinois-based trainer died Dec. 14 after being hospitalized with COVID. Among his trainees was Work All Week, winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Ken Church — The former jockey and longtime ambassador for Del Mar died in July because of pneumonia associated with COVID. He was 90.

Coty Lee Davidson — The trainer died in a car accident in February at age 33. His best-known horse was Mr Chocolate Chip, who finished second in the Bashford Manor (G3) at Churchill Downs in 2018. 

Cathy Dwyer — The former Tampa Bay Downs simulcast director and director of operations for Premier Turf Club died in March at age 65 after a battle with cancer.

Steve Elzey — The former jockey and agent died in March at age 64. His clients included Rafael Bejarano, Miguel Mena and Willie Martinez.

Phil Fitterer — The 30-year writer and editor with the Daily Racing Form died in May after a short battle with cancer.

Richard Gamez — The longtime jockey died in March after a spill at Rillito Park. He was 67.

Beau Greely — The trainer and breeder with deep family ties in Kentucky's racing industry died in October at age 49 after a short illness. He won Grade 1 races with Borrego, Manndar and Sligo Bay.

Bob Hess Sr. — The iconic Golden Gate Fields trainer died Dec. 5 from complications from COVID. He was 86.

Paul Hornung — The Notre Dame and Green Bay Packers football legend, who died in November at age 84, also was a horse-racing fan and, later in life, a Thoroughbred owner.

R.D. Hubbard — The former part owner of Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos died in April at age 84. He initiated a takeover of the declining Hollywood Park in 1990.

Gary Jones — He built a Hall of Fame career after taking over the stable started by his father, Farrell "Wild Horse" Jones, in 1974. He died in October after a lengthy illness.

David Kassen — The longtime trainer died in December after a long illness. His top earner was Nikki's Sandcastle, and he took Avies Copy to the 1987 Kentucky Derby, where he finished third.

Jon S. Kelly — A Sacramento, Calif., business icon, Jon Kelly had Thoroughbred racing operations in the U.S., Ireland and Argentina. He died in July after a long battle with cancer.

Rick Leigh— Leigh was the racing secretary at Turfway Park as part of a career in racing that lasted more than five decades as both an official and a steward. He died on Oct. 4 at age 73.

Preston Madden — The Lexington, Ky., breeder and philanthropist died in May after a short illness at age 85. He operated Hamburg Place, which produced five Kentucky Derby winners. 

George Manos — Manos began working at Playfair Race Course in Spokane, Wash., in 1956, took control of the track in 1969, and sold it in 1981. He died in November at age 87.

Katherine McKee—McKee worked for Keeneland for 15 years, most recently as director of racing administration. She died July 27 at age 40.

Wayne Monroe — The Daily Racing Form writer also was the official scorer for the Los Angeles Dodgers for nine years. He died in November at age 82.

Angel Montano — The Mexico City native won three meet training titles at Churchill Downs in the 1970s. He died from a series of health complications in October at age 80.

Henry Moreno — After starting out as a Quarter Horse trainer, Moreno switched to Thoroughbreds and moved to Santa Anita Park. He died in February at age 90 after battling dementia.

Paul Pompa Jr. — The Thoroughbred owner and breeder died in October at age 65. He was co-owner of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown.

James "Pops" Schmitt — Pops Schmitt retired from Alcoa in 1994 and later became a fixture in trainer John Hancock’s barn at Ellis Park. He died in August at age 85.

Pat Smullen — The Irish jockey died of pancreatic cancer in September at age 43. He won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Marathon with Muahnnak as well as 12 European Classic and nine Irish championships.

Mel Stute — The beloved trainer of Snowchief, Preakness Stakes winner and 1986 champion 3-Year-Old Colt, died in August at age 93. He began training in the late '40s and continued until his retirement in January 2011 with 2,000 wins from 15,808 starts. His other top horses include Brave Raj, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1986, and Very Subtle, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 1987.

Ralph Vacca — The former general manager of the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association also had stints at the Thoroughbred Record and the Daily Racing Form. He died in July at age 84.

Peggy Whittingham — The wife of the late Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham died in January at age 95 of breast cancer.

Ray York — York made his name as a jockey when riding Determine to victory in the 1954 Kentucky Derby at age 20. He died in February after a bout with pneumonia.

Kevin Zeis— Zeis had 106 total victories throughout his training career, with over 1100 starts. He died in a car accident in April at age 53.

Art Zeis— Kevin’s father was also a trainer, and remained involved in horse racing after retiring, serving as stall superintendent at Turfway Park and Kentucky Downs. Zeis died at home in Erlanger, Kentucky at age 81.

Horses we lost

A. P. Indy — The 1992 Horse of the Year often referred to as a "breed-shaping" sire, died in February at Lane's End Farm. He was 31. He won the Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic in 1992 on his way to Horse of the Year and a 3-year-old championship. He had a record of 8-0-1 in 11 starts and $3 million in earnings. A.P. Indy also was North America's leading sire in 2003 and 2006 with champions Mineshaft and Bernardini, along with sire Malibu Moon, among his progeny.

Arrogate — The Champion Three-Year-Old Male of 2016 and record-breaking Travers Stakes (G1) winner died in June at age 7 after an illness. He also won the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic, defeating California Chrome in a memorable stretch battle at Santa Anita, followed by wins in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and the Dubai World Cup (G1).

Awesome Again — The winner of the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic and 1997 Queen's Plate, died in December at age 26. His undefeated 4-year-old season included five graded-stakes victories, including the Classic.

Cajun Beat — The winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint at odds of nearly 23-1 died in January at Old Friends farm at age 20.

Congaree — The multiple Grade 1 winner was euthanized in November at age 22 because of the infirmities of old age. He retired in 2004 with a record of 12-2-4 from 25 starts and earnings of $3.3 million.

Dazzling Falls — The only Nebraska-bred to ever compete in the Kentucky Derby died in December at the age of 28. He won the Remington Park Derby and the Arkansas Derby (G2) in 1995 but came in 13th at Churchill Downs.

Dinard — The winner of the 1991 Santa Anita Derby was euthanized in July at Old Friends farm because of the infirmities of old age. He was 32.

Empire Maker — The winner of the 2003 Florida Derby (G1), Wood Memorial (G1) and Belmont Stakes died in January at age 20 after a rare disease. Among his progeny were champion Royal Delta and the classic-placed Bodemeister and Pioneerof the Nile. Pioneerof the Nile produced 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, and Bodemeister’s son Always Dreaming won the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

Forty Niner — The 1987 champion 2-year-old died in May at age 35. As a 3-year-old, he finished second in the 1988 Kentucky Derby and won the Haskell (G1) and Travers.

Hat Trick — The son of Sunday Silence died in August at age 19 in Japan, where he was standing stud. He was named Japan's champion miler in 2005.

La Verdad — The 2015 Champion Female Sprinter was euthanized in May at age 10 after complications from colic. Her championship season included scores in the Distaff Handicap (G2), the Gallant Bloom (G2) and the Vagrancy (G3), plus a runner-up effort in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Muhtathir — The multiple Group 1 winner and international sire died in September at age 25 from the infirmities of old age. 

Pleasantly Perfect — The winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic and the 2004 Dubai World Cup died in June at age 22 after a brief illness. He followed his racing career at stud in Turkey.

Preach — The dam of influential sire Pulpit died in February from the infirmities of old age. She was 31.

Taraz — The promising 3-year-old filly was euthanized in February after an injury during a workout at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Brad Cox, she broke her maiden at Churchill Downs by 7 1/2 lengths, then came back with an 11 1/4-length victory in the Lettelier Memorial and a 3 3/4-length win in the Martha Washington.

War Emblem — The 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner died in March at Old Friends farm at age 21.

Will's Way — The winner of the 1996 Travers Stakes and the 1997 Whitney Handicap (G1) died at Old Friends Cabin Creek farm in December at the age of 27.

X Y Jet — The multiple graded-stakes winner died in January at age 8 of a heart attack. He was trained by Jorge Navarro, who in March was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs in horses, including X Y Jet.

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