11/04/2004 12:00AM

Binger, of Tartan, dead


James Binger, the president of Tartan Farms in Florida, former chairman of Calder Race Course, and husband of the late Virginia McKnight, died Thursday at age 88 in Minnesota, his native state.

Tartan Farms, one of the most prominent breeding operations in Florida history, was founded by Binger's father-in-law, William McKnight, one of the richest men of his era in America and the founder of 3M. Binger and his wife took over the farm in 1974, and assumed ownership in 1978 after William McKnight died.

Under the Bingers, Tartan bred Codex, the winner of the 1980 Preakness Stakes. Although the Bingers dispersed nearly all of Tartan's stock in 1987, they were represented by a Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic winner in 1990 with Unbridled, who was sold as a weanling during the dispersal.

Binger served as the chairman of Calder in the late 1970's and 1980's.

In addition to their Thoroughbred holdings, Binger and his wife at one time owned five Broadway playhouses in New York. They were also involved in philanthropy through the McKnight Foundation.