12/26/2008 1:00AM

Trainer Blackie Huffman dies


William G. "Blackie" Huffman, a trainer and the father of Keeneland and Churchill Downs racing secretary Ben Huffman, died Wednesday evening following a short illness. He was 67.

Born and raised in Louisville, Ky., Huffman was a lifelong horseman who worked as a broodmare manager in Ocala, Fla., for Dan Lasater during the mid-1970s, when Lasater dominated the North American owner standings. Huffman returned to Kentucky in the late 1970s, eventually buying and operating the Skylight training center in Goshen, Ky., while working closely with his brother, Neil, also a trainer. In 1987, Huffman turned to training on the racetrack and was based primarily at Churchill Downs. He sold Skylight in the early 1990s.

As a trainer, Huffman had 371 winners from 2,224 starts. His best year was 1994, when his stable earned nearly $1 million. His greatest victories all came at Churchill, with Air Worthy in the 1989 Stephen Foster Handicap, Alcovy in the 1994 Falls City Handicap, and Roxelana in the 2000 La Troienne. His other stakes winners included Danville, Northcote Road, Dynawite, Waki Warrior, and Undermined.

Known on the backstretch for a likable demeanor and sense of humor, Huffman is survived by his wife, Mary Ann; three sons, Mike, Pat, and Ben; and his brother, Neil.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Pearson's-Ratterman in Middletown, Ky.