Dale Baird, who has more wins -- 9,445 -- than any other trainer in thoroughbred history, died Sunday in a traffic accident in Indiana. He was 72.
Baird was traveling west on Interstate 70 when he apparently lost control of his sport utility vehicle that was hauling an empty horse trailer, crossed the median into eastbound traffic and collided with a car carrying two young men, the Daily Reporter of Greenfield, Ind., reported. Baird and the teenagers in the other car died at the scene. A passenger in Baird’s car, Shelby Bartholomew, was taken to an Indianapolis hospital. Her condition was not immediately known.
According to the Daily Reporter, strong wind is believed to have contributed to Baird’s losing control of his vehicle.
Born April 17, 1935, in Martinsville, Ill., Baird was the son of a horse trainer, the late John Baird. After serving in the Army, the younger Baird began training full time in 1960, saddling his first winner at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. He moved to Waterford Park, now Mountaineer Park, in Chester, W.Va., in 1961 and never left.
Dealing exclusively in cheaper claiming horses, Baird, who also was an owner, led the nation in victories 15 times from 1971 to 1999 and was the first trainer to win 300 races in a year when he won 305 in 1973.
He also was the first trainer to win 300 races in three consecutive years -- 1979 through 1981 -- and was the top trainer at Mountaineer for 20 consecutive years before his streak was broken in 2001.
In addition, Baird was the leading owner in the country -- in victories -- 17 times.
Baird is one of only four trainers with more than 5,000 victories, along with Jack Van Berg, King Leatherbury and Jerry Hollendorfer, who reached that milestone Saturday at Hollywood Park.
In 2005, Baird received a Special Eclipse Award, which honors outstanding individual achievements in or contributions to thoroughbred racing.
Baird is survived by his wife, Diane; two sons and a daughter. One son, Bart, is also a trainer. Funeral arrangements are pending.