Updated on 04/22/2017 10:46AM

Derby-winning trainer Whiting dies at 77

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Lynn Whiting’s runners won 1,279 races.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Lynn Whiting, who reached the pinnacle of his profession by saddling Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby, died suddenly Wednesday morning from complications of a long-term illness and a recent stroke. He was 77.

A family friend said Whiting was unresponsive in his Louisville home after a fellow trainer had driven there to pick him up for work before dawn Wednesday. No further information was immediately available.

Whiting was at his Churchill Downs barn Monday and Tuesday morning for the first time since recovering from a stroke suffered in late February while wintering at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

Whiting’s death came mere days before he would have been able to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of the Derby upset by Lil E. Tee on May 2, 1992. Owned by Cal Partee while carrying Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day to his only Derby victory, Lil E. Tee was sent away at 16-1 odds when prevailing by a length over Casual Lies.

The son of jockey turned trainer Lyle Whiting, who began his career in the 1920s, Lynn Whiting worked on the racetracks of America from a very young age. He served two years in the Army in the 1960s before he returned to work briefly for his father and went out on his own in 1968.

Known for a sharp, dry wit and a conservative bent in conducting his business, Whiting had the utmost respect of fellow horsemen as a keen judge of the equine breed. His career flourished with Partee as his main client in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1984, he won a career-high 55 races from just 138 starters for a remarkable 39 percent strike rate. His top season for earnings was 1992, when Lil E. Tee earned the biggest part of $1,423,476.

Besides Lil E. Tee, who died in 2009 at age 20, other stakes winners trained by Whiting included Pineing Patty, Phantom On Tour, Missme, Off Duty, Cyber Secret, and Hebbronville. According to Equibase statistics, his horses won 1,279 races and $23.9 million in purses from 6,113 starts.

Whiting suffered in recent years from a blood disorder that was further complicated by the stroke. He had been hospitalized for about six weeks in Louisville before being released to an outpatient program that permitted him to return to work.

“He was fighting the good fight,” said Day. “I love him like a brother, and I’m going to miss him terribly. He was a top-shelf horseman and gentleman. The racing industry has lost a dear friend.”

Whiting is survived by his wife, Nell; two daughters, Kerri and Lori; and three grandchildren. The family said Thursday that a public memorial service will be held at Churchill on a date to be determined sometime after the May 6 Kentucky Derby.