Warren Stute, a popular Thoroughbred trainer on the Southern California circuit for nearly 70 years, died Aug. 9 at his home in Arcadia, Calif. He was 85.
Stute and his younger brother, Mel, were inseparable on the backstretches of Southern California’s three major racetracks of Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar, as well as off the track.
In his career, the elder Stute won 1,946 races and his runners earned more than $53.5 million in purses.
He held several distinctions in his life as a trainer. He saddled the winner of the inaugural Del Mar Debutante, Tonga, in 1951, and 51 years later went to the Debutante winner’s circle with Miss Houdini in 2002. Miss Houdini was owned by Bo Hirsch, son of Stute’s longtime patron, owner Clement L. Hirsch.
Also in 1951, he gave jockey Bill Shoemaker a leg up on Great Circle for the jockey’s first $100,000 stakes win in the Santa Anita Maturity, then the richest race in the world. It’s now presented as the Strub Stakes (gr. II).
Stute holds the distinction of posting the greatest number of years between running horses in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). That unique accomplishment came when he saddled Greeley’s Galaxy, who ran 11th, in Giacomo’s 2005 Derby, 38 years after Field Master ran 13th to Proud Clarion in 1967.
Stute trained such other outstanding stakes winners as Figonero, Snow Sporting, Table Mate, June Darling, Magical Maiden, and Grey Memo.
Figonero, an Argentine import, won the Hollywood Gold Cup in 1969 and set a world record of 1:46 1/5 for 1 1/8 miles at Del Mar later that year. In all, he won five other stakes in California and earned more than $460,000.
June Darling rattled off six wins--all stakes--as a 2-year-old in 1970. The filly took the Del Mar Futurity, as well as the Norfolk and the Oak Leaf Stakes and the Hollywood Lassie.
Magical Maiden, winner of the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) in 1991, won five other stakes, including the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I). The daughter of Lord Avie earned more than $900,000 in five seasons.
A 2002 victory by Grey Memo in the $1-million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) in Dubai was the richest race Stute ever won, and at 81 he was the oldest trainer to win a stakes race in Dubai. The next year, Grey Memo ran second in the Godolphin Mile.
Stute was born Sept. 30, 1921 in Fort Wayne, Ind., and came to Southern California with his family in 1934, the year Santa Anita opened. That gave him the opportunity to pursue his love of horses as a hot walker, exercise rider, and finally a trainer. He took out his first trainer’s license in 1940.
His brother, Mel, celebrated his 80th birthday the day before Warren Stute’s death. “Warren was true to his word. He said he would make my dad’s birthday but wouldn’t ruin it,” Mel’s son, Gary, also a trainer, said Aug. 9.
Stute, who suffered several strokes in recent years, was an active trainer until earlier this year. Still, he refused to leave his spot on the backstretch or his daily morning station in Del Mar’s stable kitchen with his brother and a coterie of old pals.
In addition to his brother, Stute is survived by his wife, Trudy; sister, Linda; sons Glen and Steve; daughter Laura; five grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.