08/12/2010 9:04AM

Scoop Vessels dies in plane crash

Benoit & Associates
Scoop Vessels.

Frank “Scoop” Vessels 3d, a third generation horseman whose family founded Los Alamitos Race Course, died in a private plane crash near Burns, Ore., on Wednesday, the Hanley County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Dept. announced in a statement released Thursday.

The accident site was 80 miles south of Burns in southeast Oregon. According to the statement, eyewitnesses said the plane, a 1962 Aero Commander Model 500-B, fell from altitude and broke apart during descent.

An official with the Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle said the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. The Sherriff’s Dept. statement said the cause of the crash was not immediately known.

Vessels was piloting the plane, according to the sherriff’s statement. Sam Cannell, 73, of Anderson, Calif., who owned horses with Vessels, was also killed in the accident, the statement said. The men were traveling from Redding, Calif., to Montana for a fishing trip.

Vessels, whose family founded Los Alamitos Race Course in the 1940s, was the rare horseman whose involvement led him to important positions at the top of both breeds. He was elected to the Jockey Club in 2004, the year he served as president of the American Quarter Horse Association. Vessels subsequently served as president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Vessels had major success as a breeder of Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. At the family’s 2,800-acre Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif., Vessels stood First Down Dash, the all-time leading Quarter Horse sire by progeny earnings, and In Excess, a former leading Thoroughbred sire in California.

This year, the farm stood three Thoroughbred stallions – In Excess, Momentum and Square Eddie – and five Quarter Horse Stallions, including First Down Dash. The farm also raced a small number of Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses at Southern California tracks, including Los Alamitos. In a partnership that included Cannell, Vessels campaigned Little Bit of Baja, who won the $818,850 Los Alamitos Super Derby for Quarter Horses in 2008.

Vessels took over the family’s equine operation in the early 1990s after the death of his mother, Mildred. The family’s original farm was in Cypress, Calif., adjacent to Los Alamitos racetrack, which Scoop Vessels’s grandfather, Frank Vessels, founded. The family owned the track until the early 1980s, when the farm was moved to Bonsall, in northern San Diego County.

Vessels is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and three sons – Bryan, Colt and Kash.