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Trainer of '80s Is Dead at 86

Horse racing: Charlie Whittingham won the Derby twice and much more in long career.

April 21, 1999|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Whittingham was proud that many of his assistants--including his son, Mike--had gone on to form their own stables. The list includes Richard Lundy, Neil Drysdale, Chris Speckert, Alex Hassinger Jr. and the late Joe Manzi and Rodney Rash.

There was a public-address announcement about Whittingham's death in the barn area at Santa Anita on Tuesday morning, and horsemen there observed a moment of silence. Drysdale, however, was with his horses at Hollywood Park and hadn't heard the news until a reporter called. He was too overcome with emotion to comment.

"He lived well and I'm sure he died happy," Speckert said in Lexington, Ky. "His love of animals was only exceeded by his love of people. He was so successful, but you couldn't tell it by being around him. He had time for everybody, and that's why you could learn from him. Around his barn, even the chickens were happy."

The old Marine sometimes acted as if he was still in the corps. Once, before a race in New York, he challenged Valenzuela, about 50 years younger, to a push-up contest.

Head-butting was also a regular Whittingham pastime, if he could find an opponent.

One morning, on the backstretch at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago, Mike Whittingham was wandering around as though suffering from a hangover.

"Tough night, Mike?" somebody asked.

"No," he said. "Made the mistake of doing some head-butting with the old man."

Besides his son, Whittingham is survived by his wife Peggy, daughter Charlene Von Blucher, 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Services are scheduled for noon Friday at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 400 W. Duarte Rd., Arcadia.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Charlie Whittingham at a Glance

TRIPLE CROWN VICTORIES

* Kentucky Derby--Ferdinand (1986), Sunday Silence (1989)

* Preakness--Sunday Silence (1989)

BREEDERS' CUP VICTORIES

* Classic--Ferdinand (1987); Sunday Silence (1989)

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

* Inducted into Racing Hall of Fame in 1974

* Three-time Eclipse Award winner (1971, '82, '89)

* Trained 11 national champions

* Seven-time national earnings title winner

* Santa Anita, Oak Tree and Hollywood Park's all-time leading trainer in wins and stakes wins.

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