Hall of Fame thoroughbred trainer Frank Williams died on Wednesday. He was 79.
His death was confirmed by his agent Karen Canfield. Williams died at his Woodstock, Va., home from complications of pneumonia, Canfield said.
“There was no one in the world that was as good of a horseman as Frank Williams,” Hall of Fame thoroughbred owner Tom Voss told the ILLINOIS TIMES. “He had an unbelievable sense of strategy in race work and had an unbelievable appreciation for horses and jockeys. He was one of the greatest trainers in racing history.”
Williams was the son of Norma Woodruff Williams, the owner of the old Arlington Park in suburban Chicago.
According to the the Daily Racing Form (TRF), his 500 victories in the U.S. ranked second behind D. Wayne Lukas.
“I had a one in a billion shot when he and his brother (Pete) got into training,” Voss said. “They were able to succeed at such a high level.”
Williams began his career in an Illinois racing office with Earl Graves and then became a full-time trainer in the late 1960s. He won several owners’ championships at Arlington and Laurel and had many of his champions race at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
Williams won the 1995 Arlington Million and the 1988 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park with Tornado, which had the best earnings ($314,920) of any horse in history. Tornado won the Kentucky Derby in 1988 as the favorite. “It was a great ride,” Williams said that year. “In fact, it was a great dream that he won the Kentucky Derby in the Kentucky Derby.”
Known as “The Old Master,” Williams was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1998.
Founding Director of North Central College Arena
Williams, the founding director of North Central College’s new arena, died Wednesday morning at his home in Woodstock, Va. The arena’s opening date is scheduled for Friday.
Williams died of complications from pneumonia, Karen Canfield, Williams’ agent, said.
The eight-year-old, 6,500-seat venue is at North Central’s Lisle, Ill., campus.
“Frank came up to the North Central board of trustees in 2002 and pitched the idea of creating a college arena,” said Larry Mueller, chancellor of North Central. “The proposal was met with great enthusiasm and approval by the university board. The team quickly moved to put plans in place and we reached an agreement with Lisle High School. A contract between the two parties was ratified by the Lisle Board of Education in June 2004. The field house would officially open on March 11.”
Williams trained Roy Ellison in the 1980 Preakness Stakes after choosing him as his horse for training the 1988 Kentucky Derby.
“We can all remember Roy Ellison was one of the great horses of the ’80s and Frank can be counted among the better trainers in that era,” Mueller said. “We are all very sorry to hear of his passing.”
In addition to his duties with North Central, Williams was the president of Oaklawn Park for five years, won the Cup of America as its president and also ran a syndicate in Fort Lauderdale with Arazi.