Robert F. Connors died Nov. 15 at his home near Parkesburg, Pa. He was 66.
A former rodeo cowboy and professional polo player, Connors began training Thoroughbreds in 1973. He based his stable in the mid-Atlantic and in Florida, but ran horses throughout the country. At the time of his death, Connors' horses were stabled at Delaware Park.
Connors trained 18 stakes winner and the earners of more than $7.6 million. His best horses included stakes winners Archie Beamish, Mod John, Felter on the Quay, and Sharp Future.
Connors trained for a variety of clients including Stella Thayer, owner of Tampa Bay Downs, plus Leverett Miller, Jerry Shields, Gillian Johnston, Wheelock Whitney, John Merriwether, Deborah Landon, and Carl Vangeloff. A longtime participant in Pennsylvania's breeding program, Connors also bred and owned numerous winners under his stable name Limestone Farm.
Training horses was just part of a lifestyle for Connors and his clients. "He was at the center of this circle of friends for whom he trained," said Thayer. "He would keep us in touch with one another, even if we weren't keeping in touch with each other. He was just a special friend, and we shared a love of horses."
Connors was born in Long Branch, N.J. and grew up in New Jersey and New York. Though his family had no connection to horses, he developed an interest as a teenager while living in New York and learned to ride at a local riding stable through school. Connors further kindled a career in horses by participating in local rodeos.
"He came home one day with tickets for all of us to come see him ride a bronco at Madison Square Garden," said his brother, Tom, in a eulogy. "The announcer said 'And now we've got a cowboy from Brooklyn . . .' I think you were supposed to last eight seconds and he didn't last one."
The Brooklyn cowboy improved tremendously, however, and his career followed the circuit throughout the United States and even to Cuba. Tom Connors also recalled fondly a brief job his brother held at Aqueduct before the age of 16. "I ended up getting a Pinkerton guard to get Robert, and I took him home. But he loved horses, and that's what he was going to do."
After his rodeo career, Connors worked as a professional polo player, managing the Brandywine Polo Club in Pennsylvania and the Gulfstream Polo Club in Florida. Racing followed shortly thereafter. In addition to horses, Connors was an avid fisherman.
Connors' survivors include his mother, Florence, former wife Ellen, son Robert, and three daughters. Memorial contributions can be made to the HBPA in care of the Delaware Racing Association, 777 Delaware Park Boulevard, Wilmington, DE 19804.