Legendary Ohio Horseman, Basketball Star Jim Morgan, 85, Dies

Thoroughbred trainer James E. (Jim) Morgan may be the greatest horseman many in racing have never heard of, with one of the most interesting sports backgrounds. The first horse race the Kentucky native ever witnessed was the day Dark Star upset the great Native Dancer in the 1953 Kentucky Derby while Morgan was working part-time as an Andy Frain usher. While born in the bluegrass he made his reputation on the hardwood basketball floors of Dayton, Ohio, where the 6-foot-1 All City guard led Stivers High School to be ranked No. 1 in the state in the early 1950s.

He chose the University of Louisville over the University of Dayton and went on to become a standout player. Morgan played on some very good Louisville teams, including the 1956 National Invitation Tournament championship over the University of Dayton. During his career at Louisville he became the team captain and amassed 1,105 points. He was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame and his number retired. The Syracuse Nationals of the NBA (eventually the Philadelphia ’76ers) made him their No. 1 draft pick, but he elected to return to Dayton to teach and coach high school basketball at Stebbins High School, as the salaries (believe it or not) were comparable.  “Guess I was born a few years early,” Morgan laughed while discussing the subject. “It was just a few years after that NBA salaries started to skyrocket.”

After nine years, Morgan switched to coaching equine athletes and became one of the Midwest’s preeminent Thoroughbred trainers winning over 300 stakes races. Based primarily in Kentucky and Ohio, he trained Costly Dream, who defeated champion Susan’s Girl in the Berlo Handicap at Aqueduct; Bold Rendezvous, winner of Belmont’s Imperatrice Stakes; and Brent’s Prince, who captured Arlington Park’s Round Table and the Ohio Derby at Thistledown. Morgan trainees won multiple runnings of the La Troienne, Golden Rod and Kentucky Cardinal Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Lafayette Handicap at Keeneland.

In the Buckeye State, he dominated the stakes ranks by developing six Ohio horse of the year champions.  Brent’s Prince, who he trained for Dr. T. F. Classen of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, not only won the Ohio Derby, but went on to be the leading sire in the state eight times.  In the later stages of his career, Morgan served as president of the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and in the role of trustee in the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Health Fund since 1998.

According to his brother, Sam Morgan, Jim Morgan died early on the morning of Sept. 29 of a suspected heart attack.  He was was 85.

A viewing will be held from 1-4 p.m. Oct. 6 and 11 a.m. to noon Oct. 7 at the Tobias Funeral Home, 5471 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, Ohio. 45429.

The post Legendary Ohio Horseman, Basketball Star Jim Morgan, 85, Dies appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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