Virginia McKnight Binger, who bred Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Unbridled and whose father, William L. McKnight, founded Tartan Farms in Florida , died Dec. 22 at her Wayzata, Minn., home, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She was 86.
Binger and her husband, James, took over management of the Tartan operation in 1974 and ownership of the farm before McKnight's death in 1978. McKnight, who rose to the position of chairman of 3M Co., had started the Tartan operation in the 1950s and raced such homebred stars as Horse of the Year Dr. Fager and the colt's champion half-sister, Ta Wee, plus champion Dr. Patches.
The Bingers, who continued to breed and race in the Tartan name following McKnight's death, experienced the good fortune of owning the outfit's first classic winner, Codex. A homebred, Codex won the 1980 Preakness Stakes (gr. I). He was the first classic winner for future Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
In 1987, the Bingers sold the vast majority of their horses, with their breeding stock and weanlings bringing $25 million at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale. One of the weanlings, a Fappiano colt, was bought by Minnesota resident Frances Genter. Named Unbridled, he was voted champion 3-year-old male of 1990 after winning the Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). Tartan-bred runners that year earned $6.9 million, tops in North American.
Like her father, Virginia Binger was touched by the plight of those less fortunate. She served as president of the McKnight Foundation through 1987. The foundation distributes money to various causes, and in 2001, gave away $90.8 million. In 1989, the United Way in Minneapolis gave her its Distinguished Service Award.
Binger is survived by her husband, a retired chairman of Honeywell, plus son James and daughter Cynthia, both of whom remain active in the foundation. Her father is honored with a race named in his honor at Calder Race Course. The W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) is scheduled Dec. 28.