Tommy Trotter Dies; Longtime Racing Secretary Piled Weight On Racing Greats

Thomas E. (Tommy) Trotter, a longtime racing official who once saddled the great Forego with a 138-pound impost, has died in Florida at the age of 93.

A fourth-generation horseman, Mr. Trotter was born Sept. 21, 1926, in Louisville, Ky. He was the son of C.H. (Tobe) Trotter, a trainer who mysteriously was lost at sea in 1948 when on a fishing trip near the Florida Keys with jockey Albert Snider (Citation’s winning rider a few days earlier in the Flamingo Stakes at  Hialeah) and Canadian businessman Don Fraser.

Mr. Trotter, 20 years old at the time, was working in the racing office at Tropical Park and joined in a massive search for the three men. After two weeks, Mr. Trotter gave up the futile search, well after officials said the men were presumed dead. A small fishing boat that had been towed behind a yacht they took from Miami to the Keys was eventually found, but their bodies were never recovered.

He began his career as a clerk at Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans in 1945 and when his career ended as a steward at Gulfstream Park in 2001, Mr. Trotter had worked at nearly two dozen racetracks throughout the United States.

Cutting his teeth under the dean of racing secretaries, John B. Campbell, Mr. Trotter served two tours of duty as racing secretary for the New York Racing Association tracks. The first began in 1960 when he replaced another icon among racing officials, Frank E. (Jimmy) Kilroe, after Kilroe opted to move full time to Southern California and become director of racing at Santa Anita.

Mr. Trotter left NYRA in 1971 and was replaced by Kenny Noe Jr. Four years later, he was back after Noe departed. Philosophical differences with management led Mr. Trotter to leave NYRA for good in 1978.

His time as the racing secretary at the nation’s leading circuit came when handicap races reigned supreme, and Mr. Trotter wasn’t afraid to pile on the pounds to outstanding horses as a means to bring fields closer together.

He assigned Kelso 130 pounds in the 1961 Metropolitan Handicap, then upped it to 133 for the Suburban Handicap after a victory and then added three more pounds for the Brooklyn Handicap, which Kelso won under 136. The connections of the five-time Horse of the Year declined a 138-pound impost assignment from Mr. Trotter.

In 1976, Mr. Trotter assigned Forego 137 pounds for the Marlboro Cup – two weeks after winning the Woodward Handicap under 135 – but the three-time Horse of the Year still managed to get up in the final stride in a furious rally under Bill Shoemaker to edge Honest Pleasure, who carried 119.

The following year, Mr. Trotter assigned 138 pounds to Forego in the Suburban Handicap (jockey Bill Shoemaker and 44 pounds of lead in the saddle), and the weight proved to be just too much as he was upset by Quiet Little Table.

In addition to actual weight assignments, Mr. Trotter was called upon to evaluate the best horses and races as author for a number of years of the Experimental Free Handicap, which assessed 2-year-old form and projected ahead to a horse’s ability to win going a distance of ground at 3. He was on the selection committee for the first Arlington Million and served on the North American Graded Stakes Committee and Breeders’ Cup racing secretaries panel for a number of years.

In 1999, Mr. Trotter served alongside fellow racing secretaries and officials Howard Battle, Lenny Hale, and Pete Pedersen, who joined journalists William Nack, Jay Hovdey and Jenny Rees in selecting the top 100 Thoroughbreds of the 20th Century for Bloodhorse magazine, which published a book by the same title.

Though individual committee member’s lists were not published, word got out that Mr. Trotter ranked Secretariat no higher than 14th on his list, which effectively kept the 1973 Triple Crown winner from claiming the top spot. The published list saw Man o’ War as No. 1, followed by Secretariat.

Mr. Trotter would explain later that Secretariat never proved himself as a weight carrier.

Though long retired, Mr. Trotter continued to follow the sport and attended the races at favorite tracks. He was seen at Gulfstream Park near his South Florida home earlier this year.

Predeceased by his first wife, Sally, Mr. Trotter is survived by wife Eleanor (Ellie) Gordon and five children. Funeral plans are pending.


The post Tommy Trotter Dies; Longtime Racing Secretary Piled Weight On Racing Greats appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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