2018 Year in Review: In Remembrance of Racing's Departed Stars

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 23rd, 2018

With 2018 winding down, the following is a brief remembrance of equine and human stars who passed away during the course of the year.

Though hardly a complete list, we hope to shine a spotlight on some of these memorable figures and their unforgettable accomplishments in the sport of horse racing.

John Asher

During his 21 years of work at Churchill Downs—the majority spent as vice president of Racing Communications—John Asher was widely recognized as one of the sport’s most passionate and well-liked representatives. Through his role in helping the media cover the Kentucky Derby each year, it’s not an exaggeration to say that John Asher was the modern-day face of Churchill Downs and the Derby itself.

Cot Campbell

As the head of Dogwood Stable, which campaigned classic winners Summer Squall and Palace Malice, Cot Campbell helped spread the concept of affordable racing partnerships throughout the industry, a move that has undeniably changed the sport.

Charlie Davis

Charlie Davis played a few different roles during his career on the turf, but he’s most commonly remembered as an exercise rider who achieved fame working for trainer Lucien Lauren in the 1970s. Davis played an integral role in the daily training of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat and 1972 Kentucky Derby winner Riva Ridge.

Dreaming of Anna

By compiling a perfect 4-for-4 campaign as a two-year-old in 2006, culminating with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Dreaming of Anna was an obvious choice as champion two-year-old filly of the year. She later enjoyed high-profile success on turf and became the dam of stakes winner Fast Anna.

Jose Luis Flores

During a career that spanned 31 years, veteran jockey Jose Luis Flores won a remarkable 4,650 races while riding primarily in Pennsylvania, where he won the 1999 Philadelphia Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III) aboard Loaded Gun.

Ron Franklin

Winner of the 1978 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey, Franklin’s greatest triumphs came aboard the legendary Spectacular Bid. At the age of nineteen, Franklin guided the great gray to victories in the 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Giant’s Causeway

A top-class racehorse best known for his gallant nose defeat in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), Giant’s Causeway was an even better stallion than a racehorse, leading all North American sires by progeny earnings in 2009, 2010, and 2012.

Thunder Gulch

If not for a miss by less than a length in the 1995 Preakness Stakes, the talented Thunder Gulch would have been a Triple Crown winner, for he sandwiched that defeat between decisive victories in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. At stud, the son of Gulch would sire a horse of arguably greater ability in Point Given, winner of the 2001 Preakness and Belmont Stakes.


As the dam of Banks Hill, Cacique, Champs Elysees, Heat Haze, and Intercontinental, Juddmonte Farms’ “blue hen” broodmare Hasili is one of just two mares in history to have produced five Grade/Group 1 winners.

Bill Nack

Honored with seven Eclipse Awards during his lengthy career, sportswriter Bill Nack was best known within the racing industry as the definitive biographer of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, whose story Nack covered with passionate and painstaking detail in his 1975 book Big Red of Meadow Stable (later republished under the titles Secretarat: The Making of a Champion and Secretariat.)

Private Zone

A gutsy sprinter whose front-running exploits twice made him an Eclipse Award finalist, Private Zone debuted in Panama and arrived in the U.S. with a reputation for being very difficult to train. But under careful management, Private Zone flourished and won six North American graded stakes races before retiring in 2016.

Richard Violette, Jr.

As the trainer of millionaires Diversify, Upstart, and Samraat, Rick Violette will always be remembered as an accomplished trainer. But just as significant was his tireless work in support of New York horsemen—most notably, he spent a decade as president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.

Terry Wallace

During his 37 years as track announcer at Oaklawn Park, Terry Wallace entered the record books by calling 20,191 consecutive races at Oaklawn without a miss, a streak that seems unlikely to ever be broken.

Manny Ycaza

Known for his aggressive riding style, Manny Ycaza was among the most successful jockeys of the 1950s and 1960s, winning major races aboard such renowned runners as Bald Eagle, Damascus, Dark Mirage, Dr. Fager, Gamely, Gun Bow, Intentionally, Lamb Chop, Never Bend, Northern Dancer, Sword Dancer, and Top Knight.