Leland P. Cook Jr., a successful Texas breeder/owner who raced 1993 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runner Dixieland Heat, died Nov. 6 after a lengthy illness. A resident of Corsicana, Texas, he was 75.
Cook bought Richland Ranch near Corsicana in the late 1980s and got into racing in the early 1990s. His first stakes winner, Senor Foxfire, won a pair of stakes at Louisiana Downs in 1991.
Cook purchased Dixieland Heat that same year for $77,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt stamped himself as a Kentucky Derby threat by virtue of three consecutive stakes wins at Fair Grounds. He captured the Lecomte Handicap, the Risen Star Stakes, and the Louisiana Derby (gr. III).
Following those three triumphs, Dixieland Heat ran third in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland and then finished unplaced in the Kentucky Derby.
While standing at Pope McLean’s Crestwood Farm near Lexington, Dixieland Heat sired 2001 Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly Xtra Heat. Dixieland Heat stood the 2009 breeding season at Richland.
In the name of his farm and with his wife, Sue, Cook bred and/or raced 14 stakes winners, including Golden Nugget, the 2000 Texas Horse of the Year and champion older male.
In January 2002, the Cooks were presented the T.I. (Pops) Harkins Award for their contributions to Thoroughbred racing in Texas.
A native of Abilene, Texas, Cook was a Golden Glove heavyweight boxing champion in high school in his hometown. He attended Texas A&M on a football scholarship and graduated with a degree in agricultural economics.
Cook served as circulation manager of the Corsicana Daily Sun. His other business endeavors included operating a firm that licensed and marketed coin-operated video games.
Cook’s survivors include Sue, his wife of 56 years, and five sons.