01/03/2006 12:00AM

Bob Umphrey dies at 53


MIAMI - Longtime racing official Bob Umphrey died Monday night because of complications from a massive heart attack and stroke suffered at his home Sunday evening. He was 53.

Umphrey, the racing secretary at Calder Race Course, died on the final day of the Calder meet. A son of former trainer Gene Umphrey, Bob Umphrey served as racing secretary at Calder since 1993 after holding similar positions at Laurel, Timonium, Arlington Park, Hollywood Park, Golden Gate Fields, and Gulfstream Park since 1981. He was a member of the American Graded Stakes Committee.

Umphrey was graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in marketing. He spent many summers working at his father's barn before becoming stable foreman for trainer Budd Lepman. He took his first job as a racetrack official as claims clerk at Gulfstream Park in 1975. He then worked in various capacities at Gulfstream, Atlantic City Race Course, and Hialeah from 1976 through 1980 before being named racing secretary at Laurel in 1981.

While at Calder, Umphrey helped develop the concept of specially packaged racing days, including the Juvenile Showcase and Grand Slam series. Among his other innovations are the Rocket Man Stakes, a quarter-mile race for 2-year-olds and up, and the Senior Triple, a series of races for older horses that mirrored the Triple Crown races in dates and distances.

Umphrey was also instrumental in turning Calder's popular Summit of Speed program into one of the highlights of summer racing nationally. On his watch, the Princess Rooney Handicap was recently elevated to Grade 1 status, making it the first Grade 1 race in Calder history.

"I lost a longtime friend, as did the entire racing community," said Calder president Ken Dunn. "He had a brilliant racing mind and was the architect of one of the most unique racing programs in the country."

"We all lost a brilliant racing secretary, and I lost one of my oldest and closest friends," said trainer Phil Combest. "He was my brother, and I shall miss him every day."

Umphrey is survived by his wife, Janet, sister Casey Kelly, and nephew Kevin Kelly.

Umphrey's family will hold a private funeral. Plans for a memorial service are pending.