12/29/2009 12:00AM

Terrill, trainer of Turnback the Alarm, dies


William "Red" Terrill, who had a career in horse racing that spanned approximately 50 years, died Sunday night in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He was 80. Terrill suffered from dementia during the last 18 months of his life, according to his brother, Robert.

Red Terrill is best known as the trainer of the filly Turnback the Alarm, who won five Grade 1 stakes and $960,504 in the early 1990s, including three after she returned from a broken leg. Terrill also trained Pretty Discreet, the 42-1 upset winner of the Grade 1 Alabama in 1995. Pretty Discreet is the mother of Grade 1 winner Discreet Cat as well as 2009 Champagne runner-up Discreetly Mine.

Other stakes winners trained by Terrill included Secret Prince, Light Up New York, Saxuality, and Stolen Zeal. Terrill retired from training in May 1999. He began his career in horse racing as a jockey.

Terrill was one of 18 children, many of whom had some involvement in racing. Robert Terrill, Red's youngest brother, still gets on horses in the morning part-time and is part-owner of some horses including E Z Passer, who won a maiden race Sunday at Aqueduct. Robert Terrill says he and seven other siblings are still living. Red Terrill is survived by his son Bill Terrill, who owns Ebert Van Co., and daughter Virginia Malone, who worked as Red's assistant. Red Terrill's granddaughter, Terrill, is married to trainer Chad Brown.

"My brother was a good horseman," Robert Terrill, 61, said. "He didn't get the due he should have. He was an old classic trainer."

Prior to his involvement in horse racing, Red Terrill worked as a stagehand in show business. His father played Al Jolson's double in the play "Big Boy" and his mother was a Ziegfeld Follies girl.

A memorial service for Terrill will be held Jan. 5 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Catherine Roman Catholic Church at 33 New Hyde Park Road in Franklin Square, N.Y.