By Ron Mitchell and Jackie Duke
Edward Evans, whose racing and breeding program at Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va., produced numerous stakes winners including 2010 multiple grade I winner Quality Road , died Dec. 31 in New York. He was 68.
“We will miss the man first and the sportsman second,” said Spring Hill manager Chris Baker. “I will miss him personally and the sport will really miss him. He was one of a kind the way he went about his business.”
Evans died from acute myeloid leukemia, according to Baker. Funeral services will be private.
Evans, former chairman of Macmillan Publishing, was the son of Thomas Mellon Evans, also a successful owner and breeder who counted 1981 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Pleasant Colony among the stakes winners produced on his Buckland Farm. Edward Evans purchased 2,800 acre Spring Hill Farm in 1969 and among the more than 100 stakes winners he bred were 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam as well as homebred stakes winners Gygistar, Tap Dance, Cat’s At Home, Minstrella, and With Ability. Other recent stakes winners he raced included grade I winner Cat Moves, and grade II winners Malibu Prayer and A Little Warm.
"He's had an extraordinary record, establishing himself as one of the most successful owners and breeders," said James E. (Ted ) Bassett III, former chairman of Keeneland.
Evans was seventh on the North American owners list for 2010, with stable earnings of $3.6 million.
Evans invested many years in breeding his best mares with top-quality stallions, adding the fillies to his broodmare band upon retirement. Included among his broodmares were millionaire runners Raging Fever, Summer Colony, and Gold Mover.
One of his best purchases came at the 1999 Keeneland November breeding stock sale when he bought the Strawberry Road mare Kobla, in foal to Mt. Livermore, for $1,050,000. Kobla, winless in two starts at the racetrack, is out of the graded stakes-winning Alydar mare Winglet, and her full sister was the 1997 champion 3-year-old filly Ajina. In 2006, Kobla produced Quality Road.
Quality Road, who won or placed in a dozen of 13 starts and earned $2,232,830, will enter stud this year at Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky. He won the BlackBerry Presents the 58th Running of the Florida Derby (gr. I) and the Donn Handicap (gr. I), both at Gulfstream Park and both in track-record time. He also set a 6 1/2-furlong track record in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga.
Quality Road also won the Woodward Stakes (gr. I), the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), and the Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III). He placed in three grade I stakes, including this year’s Whitney Handicap (gr. I).
"He was a terrific owner for us and our stable and he cared greatly about his horses," said Todd Pletcher, who trained the recently retired Quality Road and Malibu Prayer for Evans. "He was a tremendous person for the sport and loved the game and took great pride and pleasure in breeding, raising, and racing horses."
Said Lane's End Farm's Bill Farish: "We've done business with Ned for a lot of years and he was a friend as well as a business associate. He put a lot of personal time, personal thought, brain power into his operation. He took a tremendous amount of pride in his breeding and his ability to raise horses. He was a real purist in that he would rather breed and raise and race a good horse than anything. Quality Road was culmination of all of that for him."
Honored six times as the breeder of the year in Virginia, Evans was also selected as national breeder of the year by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association in 2009.
Just last week, Yale University announced that Evans, a member of the 1964 graduating class, had given a $50 million gift to the Ivy League school toward the construction of a new building at the School of Management. The gift will fund a portion of the estimated $189 million construction costs and the building will be named after Evans. University officials say it’s the largest gift ever given to the School of Management.