Top trainer Dutrow dies of cancer at 61

Native of Hagerstown saddled 3,666 winners

February 20, 1999|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Noted thoroughbred trainer Richard "Dick" Dutrow, who once held the world record for wins in a season, died yesterday of cancer. He was 61.

Dutrow compiled 3,666 first-place finishes in his career, ranking him among the winningest trainers in history.

Described as calm in demeanor but hard driving, Dutrow arrived at his barns at 4 a.m. each morning to feed the horses -- a task many trainers leave to underlings.

"He was a superb trainer and one of the finest men I have ever known. His barns were the most orderly, the neatest and cleanest. He was very dedicated to what he did," said Orioles owner Peter Angelos, for whom Dutrow managed a stable of horses.

"Racing is going to miss him," Angelos said.

A Hagerstown native, Dutrow was one of Maryland's most successful trainers in the 1970s. Beginning in 1973, he took the title for most wins at Laurel Park in four consecutive years. He also won top training honors at that track in 1978 and 1979, and at meets at Pimlico Race Course in 1971 and 1973.

In 1975, he became the first Maryland trainer since 1917 to top the national rankings for wins. His total that year (352) set a record that has since been eclipsed.

Dutrow began his career at the age of 10 walking race horses and dropped out of school in the 10th grade to work as a hotwalker, groom and exercise boy. He gained his trainer's license at 18 at Waterford Park in Chester, W.Va., and won his first race there, with Peanut Vendor, in 1955. The track is now known as Mountaineer Park.

His last win came in the fourth race at Laurel Park on Feb. 13, Dodona, owned by Angelos' Marathon Farms.

Dutrow trained in Maryland from 1966 to 1984, when he moved his stable to New York's Aqueduct Park. Among his most successful horses were King's Swan, a sprinter that compiled more than $2 million in earnings, and his own Lite the Fuse. Lite the Fuse won the Carter Handicap and Tom Fool Stakes in New York and, in 1995, the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.

Dutrow moved his headquarters back to Maryland in 1997, bringing with him a string of horses, including Gotham Stakes winner Romano Gucci.

"His horses were his life. His horses and his family," said Herb Kushner, owner of Romano Gucci, who maintained horses with Dutrow in New York and Maryland. "His record speaks for itself."

Dutrow was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last August but continued working until recent weeks, said his son, Anthony, who has taken over management of his horses, including Angelos' barn. Dutrow's other two sons, Sydney "Chip," and Richard E. Jr., are also trainers, the former in Maryland and the latter in New York.

"You worked hard around him because he had a way of bringing out the best work in you. He was always there right alongside you," the younger Dutrow said. "What a terrific career he had."

The elder Dutrow won 58 races in Maryland since his return and last year finished in a three-way tie for stakes wins. He had six wins in 18 starts this year.

With 12,887 career starts, he finished in the money 7,379 times and had earnings of $36.2 million, according to the Daily Racing Form.

Dutrow died at his home in Laurel. In addition to his sons, he is survived by his wife, Vicki. Funeral services are scheduled today at 2 p.m. at Rest Haven Cemetery in Hagerstown. A memorial service is being planned at Laurel Park, but details were not complete.

The family requests donations to the American Cancer Society in lieu of flowers.

Sun staff writer Kent Baker contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/20/99

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