05/01/2008 11:00PM

Frank Whiteley Jr., trainer of Ruffian, dies


Frank Whiteley Jr., the Hall of Fame trainer of champions Ruffian and Forego, died on Friday morning at the age of 93 in Camden, S.C., according to friends of his family. No cause of death was given, but Whiteley had been suffering from a variety of health ailments related to his age over the past several months.

Though a trainer of numerous stakes winners and four champions, Whiteley is best remembered for his relationship with Ruffian, who was champion filly as a 2-year-old in 1974 and champion again as a 3-year-old in 1975. Ruffian went undefeated in her first 10 starts.

In her final start, a match race with the champion 3-year-old colt Foolish Pleasure at Belmont Park on July 6, 1975, Ruffian suffered a fatal injury on the backstretch. She is remembered as one of the greatest fillies of all time.

Born on a farm in Maryland, Whiteley began training horses at the age of 21. As much as he is remembered for his fastidious care of his horses, he was known for his sometimes gruff exterior and impatience with outsiders. He retired in 1984, six years after being inducted to the National Racing Hall of Fame, and moved to South Carolina.

"I liked working for Frank," said trainer Barclay Tagg, who worked for Whiteley for a year and galloped Ruffian. "Some people did, some people didn't. He took great care of his horses. He was so dedicated and never left them. I got a lot of my bad habits like that from him."

"He was a fun guy to work for, and he had great stories," said Shug McGuaghey, who worked for Frank and his son, David, also a trainer. "He wasn't easy, but the reason he wasn't easy was because he was teaching you."

In addition to Ruffian and Forego, Whiteley trained Damascus, who became the 1967 Horse of the Year after winning the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Woodward Stakes. He also trained Tom Rolfe, the champion 3-year-old colt of 1965, who gave the trainer his first win in a Triple Crown event with that year's Preakness Stakes.

Whiteley took over the training of Forego from an ailing Sherrill Ward in 1976, when the top stayer was already 6. Forego was named Horse of the Year and champion handicap horse that year after winning the Brooklyn, Metropolitan, Marlboro Cup and Woodward. In 1977, Forego was again the champion handicap horse. He retired after two starts at 8.

John Veitch, the trainer of Alydar, who placed second in all three Triple Crown events in 1978, said on Friday that Whiteley was "one of the last of a generation that really saw the great days of American racing."

"Frank Whiteley saw so many great horses," Veitch said, "and he trained some of them too."

Lee Christian, the president of the South Carolina Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, who had known Whiteley for the past 25 years, said that Whiteley continued to talk about his horses "with a sparkle in his eye" in recent years.

The South Carolina owners and breeders recently named its industry-service award for Whiteley.

"I don't think anyone loved the horses he trained more than Frank did," Christian said. "He had this warm spot in his heart for them that you just don't see that often."

- additional reporting by David Grening