10/22/2014 10:26AM

Hunt, former owner-breeder, dies at 88


Nelson Bunker Hunt, one of the most prominent figures in the Thoroughbred industry during the second half of the 20th century and a three-time Eclipse Award winner, died Tuesday at 88. The Associated Press reported that Hunt died at an assisted-living facility in Dallas after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Hunt, a son of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, made several successful ventures in oil and mineral speculation as a young man and helped grow the family fortune during the 1970s after his father’s death to become one of the world’s richest men, before a failed attempt to corner the silver market in 1980 led to a financial downfall and eventual bankruptcy.

Hunt entered the Thoroughbred industry in the 1950s and over the next three decades built his program into an international success, breeding a series of champions in the United States and Europe. Among those were Vaguely Noble, a European champion in the late 1960s who went on to become a leading sire in England, France, and the United States.

Other top-flight horses bred and/or owned by Hunt were European and U.S. champion filly Dahlia, Grade/Group 1 winner Exceller, English Derby winner Empery, U.S. and French champions Youth and Trillion, Canadian Horse of the Year Glorious Song, and U.S. champion Estrapade.

Hunt owned Lexington’s Bluegrass Farm along with more than 8,000 acres of land in central Kentucky and amassed more than 300 broodmares and ownership shares in several top stallions at his peak of involvement in the horse business. He received the Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder in 1976, 1985, and 1987 and was an adviser to Gainesway Farm’s John Gaines in the genesis of the Breeders’ Cup.

Hunt and his brothers were forced to sell of many of their assets during the 1980s after losing more than $1 billion when the silver market collapsed. His bloodstock dispersal at the 1988 Keeneland January sale of horses of all ages generated a then-record gross of more than $46.9 million. Hunt re-entered the industry on a more modest scale in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Hunt is survived by his wife, Caroline, and four children. A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central on Friday at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas.