Robert Dotter, who rode at the inaugural Keeneland meeting and who saddled winners of the Metropolitan and Widener Handicaps in the 1950s, died Nov. 26 at an Augusta, Ga., hospital. A longtime resident of Aiken, S.C., he was 86.
Born in Newport, Ky., and reared in California, Dotter played a special part in the early days of Keeneland. He was one of the leading riders at the track's inaugural meeting in the fall of 1936. Dotter returned to Keeneland for the 1937 spring meeting and topped all riders by number of wins.
A quick learner, Dotter was the nation's fifth-leading jockey by number of winners in 1937, with 174. That same year, he rode Sunset Trail II in the Kentucky Derby, but finished unplaced to War Admiral.
Starting in 1936, Dotter became the regular rider of 1938 co-champion older female Marica. He won seven stakes aboard the mare, including the Newcastle, Mary Dyer, and Sussex Handicaps her championship season. Dotter rode her in the 1938 Havre de Grace Handicap against Seabiscuit, but finished unplaced.
Dotter was a victim of identity theft in the early 1940s. A scoundrel passed himself off as Dotter and wrote a first-person account on nefarious racing practices for True
magazine. Purportedly written by Dotter in the form of a smug confession, the article, "When I Rode, You Lost," centered on race fixing and the fleecing of the betting public. Dotter sued for $100,000 for defamation of character.
Dotter, whose training career started in the early 1940s after weight forced him from the saddle, trained for a number of clients, including major breeder/owner James Cox Brady. For Brady, Dotter conditioned seven stakes winners, the best of which were Casemate, Landlocked, and Secret Meeting.
Casemate, a son of Case Ace, won such stakes as the 1951 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park and the 1949 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park. Landlocked, by Priam II, scored his big wins in the 1954 Widener Handicap at Hialeah and a division of the 1952 Sapling. Secret Meeting, a daughter of Alibhai, captured the 1953 Acorn Stakes at Belmont.
Dotter trained a total of 14 stakes winners, including 1974 grade II winner Crafty Khale. Another of Dotter's runners, stakes-placed Near Man, held the six-furlong Aqueduct track record for 17 years, setting it in 1963.
An Army veteran, Dotter owned Silver Bluff Farms near Aiken, S.C. He achieved particular success as a trainer in the Aiken Trials.
Dotter's survivors include a son, Robert, and a daughter, Mary Ann.