03/22/2015 4:31PM

Prominent owner-breeder Don McNeill dies at 63

Barbara D. Livingston
Caleb's Posse, winner of the 2011 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, was among the top horses bred by Don McNeill of Oklahoma.

Don McNeill, a prominent breeder and owner from Edmond, Okla., died Saturday morning in California. He was 63.

McNeill bred Caleb’s Posse, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner in 2011 that he raced in partnership with Everett Dobson. McNeill also bred and raced Clever Trevor, winner of the inaugural Remington Park Derby in 1989, and Mr Ross, an Oklahoma-bred who won 14 stakes. The three horses, who earned more than $1 million each, were trained by Donnie Von Hemel, who on Sunday said McNeill was an influential person in both his personal life and career.

“Our relationship started out professionally,” Von Hemel said. “I think I probably think of him more as a good friend, and as a client secondly. Everybody has a handful of people that really make a difference in their lives and Don was one of those people in my life that really made a difference, giving me the opportunities he did with some really wonderful horses. I owe him a lot.”

McNeill was a commodities broker who grew up on his family’s farm in Thomas, Okla., according to a release from Remington Park. He was inducted into the track’s Hall of Fame in 2012 for his accomplishments as a breeder and owner. McNeill’s first millionaire was Clever Trevor, who after the Remington Park Derby advanced to the Kentucky Derby and ran 13th to Sunday Silence. Clever Trevor later in the year finished second to Easy Goer in the Travers at Saratoga. Overall, the McNeill homebred won 15 of 30 starts and $1.3 million.

Another McNeill homebred grabbed the spotlight more than 20 years later, when Caleb’s Posse rolled to a four-length win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs.

“It was grand,” Von Hemel said of the memorable afternoon McNeill shared with his family at the Breeders’ Cup.

Caleb’s Posse, who earlier in the year also won the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga, retired to stud in 2012, after finishing second by a nose in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park. The horse won 8 of 19 races and $1.4 million.

Mr Ross, who was named for McNeill’s high school football coach, was a multiple Grade 3 winner of $1,091,046. Overall, he won 18 of 44 starts and retired to McNeill’s farm in Edmond. 

Services for McNeill are pending.