In memoriam: People and equine stars horse racing lost in 2019 – Horse Racing Nation


Horse racing lost some of its biggest names in 2019, led by one of racing’s most significant philanthropists in Marylou Whitney, one of racing’s greatest jockeys in Hall of Famer Randy Romero and longtime trainers Richard Hazelton, Vinnie Blengs and Gary Sherlock.

Marylou Whitney was heralded as the “Queen of Saratoga” for her many contributions to racing and the city of Saratoga Springs, including the 
founding of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1966In the 1970s, the Whitneys helped convince NYRA to keep Saratoga open as a viable part of its racing calendar at a time when wagering and attendance sagged. In 2003, Bird Town, trained by Nick Zito, made Whitney the first woman in 80 years to own and breed a Kentucky Oaks winner, and in 2004 her Birdstone won the Belmont Stakes, ending Smarty Jones’s Triple Crown bid, and then the Travers that summer. 

Of Kentucky Derby legend, racing lost a winning horse, trainer and jockey. Sea Hero, the 1993 Derby winner; 
David Cross Jr., who saddled Sunny’s Halo in 1983; and David Erb, who piloted Needles to victory in 1956 all died in 2019. 

Among well-known equine athletes, the most dramatic loss was that of stallion 
Pioneerof the Nile, who died suddenly at age 13. As the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Pioneerof the Nile had already made a huge impact in the breeding shed. On the racetrack, the son of Empire Maker reeled off four straight wins on the Kentucky Derby trail before finishing second to Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. 

In addition to Sea Hero and Pioneerof the Nile, racing lost Menifee, who was second in the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and tragically lost 2017 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Battle of Midway and Grade 1 winner Mongolian Groom to the racetrack injuries that plagued Santa Anita Park.

Racing also lost some well-known media members, including Jack Whitaker who covered the Triple Crown for CBS and ABC; noted handicapping author and handicapper Steve Davidowitz; award-winning turf writer Bob Fortus; and southern California trainer and radio host Roger Stein. Overseas, racing fans in England lost their most well-known racing pundit in John McCririck. Industry leaders Sherwood “Chilly” Chillingworth, who guided the Oak Tree Racing Association for decades; Liz Bracken, an executive with NYRA and the University of Arizona’s racetrack program; and John Schuster, the general manager of racing for Indiana Grand all died this year. 

While far from complete, here is a list of notable racing figures that were lost in 2019 and more on their contributions to the sport:

Date Name Age Notes, article link
1/11 Harvey Clarke 77 Bred 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another
2/2 J.B. McKathan 53 Helped develop American Pharoah
3/18 William Wolfendale III 74 Maryland-based trainer won 1,700 races
4/14 Steve Davidowitz 77 Handicapper, author of Betting Thoroughbreds
5/7 Tracie Willis 43 Darby Dan Farm employee
5/14 Tim Conway 85 Actor, racing supporter co-founded Don MacBeth Fund
5/23 J.J. Crupi  79 Former trainer and owner of an Ocala, Fla., farm
5/27 Euclyn Prentice 28 Jockey based in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
5/30 David Cross Jr. 84 Trained 1983 Kentucky Derby winner Sunny’s Halo
5/31 Roger Stein 65 Trainer, S. California radio host
6/4 “Spec” Alexander 80 Lifelong horseman, starter at Keeneland
6/10 John McEvoy 83 DRF editor, horse racing mystery writer
6/17 John Toffan 83 Prominent owner of Free House, Came Home, Bien Bien
6/17 Gus Schickedanz 90 Canadian breeder of G1 winners Langfuhr, Jambalaya
7/5 John McCririck 79 British racing and betting guru, ITV and Channel 4
7/16 Bob Fortus 69 Louisiana-based award-winning turf writer
7/19 Marylou Whitney 93 Philanthropist who owned and bred Birdstone, Bird Town
7/30 Richard Hazelton 88 Trainer won 4,475 races
8/2 Roger Ramey 85 Longtime employee and leader at Charles Town
8/18 Jack Whitaker 95 Hall of Fame TV Triple Crown broadcaster for CBS, ABC
8/29 Randy Romero 61 Hall of Fame jockey won 4,294 races worth $75 million
10/2 Kathleen Feron 52 New York-based trainer, breeder, owner
10/5 Vinnie Blengs 90 Trainer known as “King of Suffolk Downs”, won 1,981 races
10/9 Sherwood Chillingworth 93 Director of the Oak Tree Racing Association
11/22 Dave Erb 95 Jockey won 1956 Kentucky Derby aboard Needles
11/22 Morton Fink 89 Owner of Horse of the Year Wise Dan, also Guided Tour
11/23 Liz Bracken 52 Industry employee, VP of NYRA simulcasting
11/24 Gerry Russell 77 Trainer, steeplechase jockey in UK
12/17 Thomas Carey 87 President and GM of Hawthorne for 30 years
12/22 Bettina Lindsay Jenney 86 Derry Meeting Farm employee; bred Danzig and Mrs Penny
12/25 Jonathan Schuster 61 Vice president and GM at Indiana Grand
12/29 Gary Sherlock 73 California-based trainer who had G1 winner Intangaroo

Additionally, here is a list of notable equine athletes that died in 2019:


Who are the people and horses who left us in 2019 that you will remember the most? Let us know in the comments.