Thomas Heard Jr., who trained Thoroughbreds for more than 70 years—many of those in South Florida—passed away at the age of 93 in Texas on Aug. 4.
A native of Refugio, Texas, Heard declined a career in journalism to pursue his calling at the racetrack. Heard spent his summer breaks from school in New England, where his father raced Thoroughbreds in the 1930s.
The younger Heard’s first stakes winner came in 1938 in the Commonwealth Handicap at Suffolk Downs with Be Blue.
After successful campaigns in New York, New England, New Jersey, and Chicago, Heard settled in Miami and built Heardsdale Training Center in the 1960s. The property was sold in 1973 and he later headed to California where he would be the leading owner at Hollywood Park in his first season. After three seasons, he returned his operation to South Florida.
In recent years, Heard’s stakes winners included Lawbook, winner of the first two divisions of the 2002 Florida Stallion Stakes; Built For Pleasure, upset winner of the 1996 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) over Unbridled’s Song and Victory Speech; and in the early 1990s, Mayor Steve and Gator Back.
Remarkably, Heard trained a stakes winner in each of eight consecutive decades. His daughter, Vaughan, is currently a trainer at Calder Casino & Race Course.