03/13/2014 12:43PM

Maryland horse owner Heft dies at 94


Arnold Heft, who spent more than two decades as an official and owner in the National Basketball Association but more recently was best known for campaigning several multiple stakes winners in Maryland, died Thursday in Bethesda, Md., at age 94.

“He just loved sports,” said Heft’s trainer, Tim Keefe. “He was full of life. When he came into a room, everyone knew it. He had great stories and had a wonderful personality.”

Heft and his wife, Sylvia, raced multiple stakes winners Pulverizing, Baldski’s Choice, He Is Risen, Eighttofasttocatch, and Red’s Round Table.

“Eighttofasttocatch was the first horse I bought for Arnie and Sylvia,” Keefe said. “Arnold loved putting horses in her name, but when Sylvia started to have some medical problems, he just switched the ownership. He owned all the horses and just loved the business. He was wonderful to train for. He loved coming to the races to watch his horses run but never wanted me to run them unless they were ready.”

Although the Hefts earned their lone graded stakes victory with He Is Risen in the Grade 3 Polynesian Handicap in 1992, their most successful horse was Eighttofasttocatch, who won four stakes in 2013, including the Maryland Million Classic, Jennings, and Broad Brush to close out his campaign in December.

Keefe said Heft’s horses will either run in his wife’s name or the estate of Arnold Heft.

Heft pitched four years of minor-league baseball in the late 1930s and early 1940s, winning 22 games for Owensboro in the Class D League in 1941. He then became an NBA referee (1945-61) and later co-owned the Baltimore Bullets (1964-68).

A graveside service to celebrate Heft’s life is scheduled for 2 p.m. Eastern Friday at Garden of Remembrance Memorial Park in Clarksburg, Md.