John Kirby, an owner, breeder, and trainer in New England for nearly 50 years, died Dec. 29 following a brief illness at the age of 85.
The former U.S. Marine raced almost exclusively at Suffolk Downs with horses raised at his Smoke Valley Farm in Dover. After Massachusetts instituted a breeding incentive program for state breeders in 1981, a Kirby horse has won at least one Mass-bred stakes every year.
His son, Tim Kirby, now runs the farm and trains the family's horses.
Kirby's "African" horses were well-known locally: African Queen, African Prince, African Mystery, and African Princess. African Prince earned nine victories at Suffolk including four stakes wins.
Another Kirby horse was the hard-knocking Brik, a winner of 23 of his remarkable 184 starts. John's nickname, given by his wife Patricia, was "Kirb," or Brik spelled backwards.
Memorial gifts in Mr. Kirby's name can be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, PO Box 1893, Memphis, TN 38101-9950.