Prominent Florida horseman Bonnie Heath, whose colt Needles become the first state-bred runner to earn a national championship and the first to win the Kentucky Derby, died the night of Nov. 4 at his Ocala, Fla., home. He was 84.
Heath raced Needles with Jack Dudley in the name of their D & H Stable. Purchased for $20,000, Needles was the nation's co-champion 2-year-old male in 1955, but had the 3-year-old title all to himself after winning the Kentucky and Florida Derbys and the Belmont and Flamingo Stakes. The two men also bred a number of stakes winners, including major winner Sadair.
Heath, who operated Bonnie Heath Farm near Ocala, served several terms as president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. He also was on the board of the Florida Breeders' Sales Company and the Florida Horse
Heath's survivors include his wife, Opal; a son, Florida horseman Bonnie Heath III; and daughters Hillary and Heather.