11/26/2011 8:05PM

Manuel Gilman, prominent veterinarian and racing official, dies at 91

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Manuel Gilman in an undated photo.

Manuel Gilman, who worked as a racetrack official for more than 40 years - most of them spent as the chief examining veterinarian at the New York Racing Association - died on Friday, according to the Blood-Horse website. He was 91.

Gilman, a native of Kew Gardens, N.Y., began working at New York's major racetracks in 1947 and in 1950 became the chief examining veterinarian for what would become NYRA, which operates Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. He served in that capacity until 1982, when he became general manager for the Harbor View Farm of Patrice and Lou Wolfson.

In 1984, Gilman became director of the Jockey Club. In 1986, Gilman was assigned to be the Jockey Club steward at NYRA tracks. He held that position until he retired in the fall of 1991.

As director of the Jockey Club, Gilman was instrumental in preparing the registration rules and requirements that call for the blood-typing and identification of horses.

Dr. Ted Hill, a former NYRA chief examining vet who now works as the Jockey Club steward at NYRA racetracks, met Gilman in 1977 when he joined NYRA as a member of the horse identification office. Hill remembered Gilman as a "tireless worker" who was "dedicated to keeping up the standards of racing in New York and protecting the horse."

Hill also said that Gilman was a pioneer in the prerace examinations of horses.

"When he was doing it in the '60s and '70s there were not that many tracks doing it," Hill said. "And if they were, they were not doing it up to the standards Dr. Gilman was doing it. He was sort of a bellwether when it came to that."

Gilman, who grew up on Long Island, was introduced to horses when he met trainer Mickey Walsh, who taught him how to ride Open Hunters in horse shows at the old Madison Square Garden. Gilman's father encouraged him to become a veterinarian and after graduating the University of Maine, Gilman received his degree in veterinary science from the University of Pennsylvania.

Gilman also served in the U.S. Army during World War II for 22 months.

According to the Blood-Horse, Gilman is survived by his wife of 63 years, Margaret Werber Gilman, a congressional gold medal recipient for her service in World War II, as well as the couple's two children, Charles and Jane, five grandchildren, and four great-grandsons.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to either the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation or the Backstretch Employees Services Team (BEST), which provides a range of health and human services for backstretch workers at NYRA tracks.