Hall Of Fame Trainer John Veitch, 77, Passes; Trained Alydar, Four Champions – Horse Racing News

Hall of Fame trainer John Veitch

Hall of Fame trainer John Veitch, who helped revitalize Calumet Farm in the 1970s with champions Davona Dale, Our Mims, and Before Dawn and with Alydar – arch-rival of Triple Crown winner Affirmed – died on Tuesday in Lexington, Ky., according to Bloodhorse.com. He was 77 years old.

Born in Lexington on June 27, 1945, Veitch was the son of Hall of Fame trainer Sylvester Veitch and grandson of Silas Veitch, another trainer who started out as an exercise rider and jockey. An uncle, Leo Veitch, also trained. Syl Veitch rode and trained steeplechase horses before taking on private training jobs with C.V. Whitney and, later, George D. Widener. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Sports columnist Red Smith wrote of Veitch that “ever since he left off squandering his youth in a cradle, John has lived with the horses.

“He grew up working on C.V. Whitney’s farm,” Smith wrote. “He worked at Greentree Farm and on George D. Widener’s farm and put in three years at the track under Elliot Burch when that astute horseman trained for Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Farm. Whitney, Greentree, Widener, Rokeby, Calumet — in American racing that reads like Burke’s peerage.”

Like his father, John Veitch did his best work training for sporting owner-breeders, starting with Calumet Farm in 1976 – two years after taking out his trainer’s license. For Calumet. he won Eclipse Awards for Our Mims as champion 3-year-old filly of 1977, Davona Dale as champion 3-year-old filly of 1979, and Before Dawn as champion 2-year-old filly of 1981.

Davona Dale, winner of 11 of 18 starts, was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1985. Alydar was inducted in 1989 despite never winning an Eclipse Award. Winner of 14 of 26 races lifetime, the Calumet Farm homebred’s battles with Harbor View Farm’s Affirmed – finishing second in all three Triple Crown races in 1978 – were legendary, particularly the Belmont Stakes, where the two horses raced head and head for most of the mile and a half Test of the Champion, Affirmed winning narrowly in the end.

The Affirmed-Alydar rivalry began the previous year when the two colts faced each other six times, Affirmed getting the better of Alydar in four out of the six. They finished 1-2 in five of those races.

Veitch quit his private job at Calumet when J.T. Lundy took over as head of the Wright family’s farm and wound up training for John Galbreath, a great sportsman who operated Darby Dan Farm. For Darby Dan Veitch won the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Aqueduct with Proud Truth, bringing the Graustark colt off a layoff and winning his prep race, the Discovery Handicap, just one week before the Classic. Proud Truth won 10 of 21 races and nearly $2.2 million.

Three years later, Veitch won an Eclipse Award as grass champion with the Darby Dan homebred Sunshine Forever, a son of Roberto out of a Graustark mare.

In all, Veitch won 410 races between 1974 and 2003, including 76 graded stakes, 31 of them Grade 1. His last G1 victory came with Darby Dan’s Plenty of Grace in the 1990 Yellow Ribbon Invitational Stakes at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.  “I am so proud to stand here before you today,” Veitch said at the Hall of Fame ceremony. “I have been truly blessed all of my life. The lifelong experience in being involved with wonderful horses and wonderful people will be foremost in my heart forever. All my success can be attributed to those I worked for and with.”

Following his retirement from training in 2003, Veitch worked as a racing official, rising to become chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Veitch was removed from that position following the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs when Ladies Classic favorite Life At Ten trailed the field and was not persevered with by jockey John Velazquez, who gave a pre-race horseback interview on live television suggesting his mount didn’t warm up well. Veitch fought his dismissal but was unsuccessful in regaining the chief steward’s job.

”There’s something so wonderful about good horses,” Veitch told Steven Crist of the New York Times during his years training for Calumet. “They’re the most unbelievably noble creatures. They don’t squabble. They’re not prima donnas. They’re not difficult. They give you everything you ask and they do everything right. How many people can you say that about?”

According to Bloodhorse.com, Veitch will be interred in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., next to his third wife, Ellis Conway Veitch, who died in 2017.

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