Frank Whiteley Jr., a trainer of some of horse racing’s biggest stars and a member of the sport’s hall of fame for 30 years, died Friday in Camden, S.C. He was 93.
No cause of death was released, but Whiteley had been ill for some time.
The trainer of, among others, the brilliant filly Ruffian as well as multiple stakes winners Damascus and Forego, Whiteley got his trainer’s license in Maryland in 1936, beginning a career that would last for 49 years.
“Frank was just a wonderful horseman, who did it the grass-roots way, and there just aren’t that many around any more,” hall of fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who worked for Whiteley, told bloodhorse.com.
“When the horses got sick, he gave them aspirin. He was a fun guy to work for and he had great stories,” McGaughey said.
Whiteley directed Damascus to a horse-of-the-year title in 1967 after earning his first victory in a Triple Crown race when Tom Rolfe was ridden to a win in the 1965 Preakness.
In addition to the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, Damascus’ major victories as a 3-year-old included the Woodward, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
In the 1970s, Whiteley had success with the ill-fated Ruffian, who was a champion filly as a 2- and 3-year-old. She was undefeated in 10 starts before suffering a fatal leg injury while competing in a match race against Foolish Pleasure, the champion 3-year-old male, on July 6, 1975, at Belmont Park.
Ruffian was in front of the colt when she was injured before more than 50,000 and a nationwide television audience that was reported to number about 18 million.
In 1976, Whiteley took over the training of Forego, who went on to win his third consecutive horse-of-the-year title.
“He was one of the best horsemen I’ve ever been around,” Ruffian’s regular jockey Jacinto Vasquez told bloodhorse.com. “I met him in 1963 and he was like a father to me.”
Whiteley, a native of Centreville, Md., was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1978.
He is survived by sons Alan and David, who is also a trainer.
Funeral arrangements are pending.