07/31/2013 11:08AM

Owner-breeder Elaine Klein dies at age 80

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Elaine Klein, a prominent owner and breeder in Kentucky who raced horses in partnership with her husband, Bert, and son, Richard, died Wednesday at her home in Buckner, Ky., after a battle with cancer. She was 80.

A native of Nashville, Tenn., Klein was an accomplished equestrienne, and showed three-gaited American Saddlebreds and road ponies, winning World’s Amateur and National titles in the early 1980s at such venues as Madison Square Garden. But for much of the last 30 years, her involvement with horses extended to breeding and racing Thoroughbreds.

She and her youngest son, Richard, began racing horses together in partnership in the late 1980s, and then in 1998, Bert joined their racing partnership. Thereafter the Kleins won 86 stakes races, of which 22 were graded, Richard Klein said.

For much of the 2000s, they ranked among top 100 owners in North America by wins or earnings, and in 2011 they had their best finish in a Breeders’ Cup race when Country Day finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.

This year, through racing on Tuesday, the Klein stable ranked 68th in earnings, with their horses winning 17 of 62 races and $696,571.

Over the past decade their stable became filled largely with homebred runners, as the Kleins began breeding their most accomplished mares, who in turn produced successful racehorses for them.

In addition to her love of horses and contributions to racing, Elaine and the Klein family supported an often-overlooked segment of the racing industry: backside workers. Together with WinStar Farm, they helped fund and start the The Backstretch Learning Center at Churchill Downs, originally called the Klein Family Learning Center.

The center, which opened in 2004, seeks to improve the lives of backside employees by providing educational services and cultivating a better quality of life.

Elaine Klein is survived by Bert, her husband of 60 years and a retired president of Bank of Louisville; sons Stephen, David, and Richard and their families; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Funeral services are pending.