Updated on 03/25/2017 9:16AM

Prominent owner, breeder Bert Klein dies at 86

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Bert Klein, a prominent owner and breeder who raced horses in partnership with his late wife, Elaine, and son, Richard, died Friday morning following an illness. He was 86.

Klein, who was the retired president of a local bank, got serious about racing horses in the1990s. The family’s homebred filly, Pinch Hit, won the second race Thursday under their familiar lime-green silks at Oaklawn Park, less than 24 hours before Bert died at a local health-care facility surrounded by family.

“Dad was very well respected throughout the community and really loved the sport of racing,” said Richard Klein. “He lived a wonderful life.”

Elaine Klein died in July 2013, at which time the family’s horses had won nearly 90 stakes, including 22 graded. Many of the family’s horses were named for Bert, including graded winners De Bertie, Allamerican Bertie, Hurricane Bertie, and Uptown Bertie. Among their other top horses were Outofthebox, Swept Away, Hidden Assets, Country Day, and Miz Ida. The latest stable star, Believe In Bertie, has won four stakes within the last nine months in Louisiana.

The Kleins were the leading owner at their hometown track, Churchill Downs, at the 2006 fall meet. Their primary trainer in recent years has been Brad Cox, the trainer of Pinch Hit and Believe In Bertie.

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In recent years, the Klein stable became filled mostly with homebred runners, as the family began breeding their most accomplished mares, who in turn produced successful racehorses for them.

The Klein family is a major benefactor in 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.

One other son, Stephen, survives his parents. Another son, David, died in January 2014.

Funeral arrangements are scheduled for Tuesday at The Temple Adath Israel Brith Sholom on U.S. Highway 42 in Louisville. Instead of flowers, the family asks for donations to be made to the Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation for the Elaine Klein Career Development Award.