12/01/2009 1:00AM

New England owner-breeder dies


Francis "Skip" McDonnell, one of the last owners based in New England with a stable that competed on larger circuits, died Nov. 23 after battling cancer. He was 74.

Twice honored by the region's turf writers for both yearly and lifetime achievements, McDonnell consistently bred top horses on his Cimarron Farm in Florida and raced them in New England, the place where he grew up and developed a small Boston-area trucking and construction company into an real estate development group based in southern New Hampshire.

His top horses included Cimarron Secret, a graded stakes winner of the Tropical Park Handicap at Calder in 1996 as well as two-time winner of the Governors Cup Handicap at Remington Park for trainer Jim Hartley. He also bred and raced multiple stakes winning half-sisters Sandy Gator and Nana's Toy. All three were named New England champions in their careers.

McDonnell is survived by his wife, Barbara, sister Carmel O'Brien, son Michael McDonnell, daughter Barbara Jean Lanum and seven grandchildren.

There was no immediate word on plans for the racing stable.