Hall of Fame Trainer Elliott Burch Dies
Photo: Blood-Horse Publications
Capeador won the Letellier Memorial Handicap at the Fairgrounds, led by Elliott Burch.

Elliott Burch, a third-generation Hall of Fame trainer, died Jan. 29 of pneumonia at a Newport, R.I., hospital. He was 86.

Burch, who trained for more 30 years, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1980. Three of his stakes winners, Sword Dancer in 1959, Arts and Letters in 1969, and Fort Marcy in 1970, were named Horse of the Year. Burch also trained champions Bowl of Flowers, Run the Gantlet, and Key to the Mint.

“Elliott Burch was inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year that I became a racing fan,” said New York Racing Association President and CEO Charles Hayward in a release. “I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Burch as I was friends with all of his children. We all know that he was a brilliant trainer and a great horseman. He was also a devoted father who cared deeply for his family. He was an avid reader, and I enjoyed hearing him speak about his favorite books. Elliott Burch will be missed and we should all thank him for the many contributions that he made to Thoroughbred racing.”

Educated at Yale University and the University of Kentucky, Burch served in the Army Signal Corps in Europe during part of World War II and after the war. He later worked as a racing writer and as an assistant trainer. When his father, Preston Burch, retired in 1957, Elliott took over his dad’s job as head trainer for Isabel Dodge Sloane’s Brookmeade Stable.

Burch trained Sword Dancer and Bowl of Flowers for Brookmeade. Sword Dancer was the first of Burch’s three Belmont Stakes winners, winning the classic in 1959. For owner Paul Mellon, Burch saddled Belmont winners Quadrangle in 1964 and Arts and Letters in 1969. Quadrangle’s score ended Northern Dancer’s Triple Crown threat, and Arts and Letters’ triumph did the same to Majestic Prince's.

For Mellon, Burch also trained Fort Marcy, who shared Horse of the Year honors with Personality, and Key to the Mint and Run the Gantlet. Fort Marcy, a grass specialist, and Arts and Letters, Bowl of Flowers, and Sword Dancer are members of the Hall of Fame.

Burch sent out four winners each of the Suburban Handicap, the Travers Stakes, the Woodward Stakes, and the Whitney Handicap. For C.V. Whitney, Burch saddled State Dinner to win the 1980 Whitney. 

Burch’s father was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963, and his grandfather, W.P. Burch, was a charter member of the organization, being inducted in 1955.

Burch is survived by sons Richard and Dan and a daughter, Jehanne. Richard served as an assistant to New York trainer H. James Bond. Jehanne worked at Fasig-Tipton Co.

Visitation is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 3, from 5 -7 p.m. at the O’Neill-Hayes funeral home, 465 Spring Street, Newport. A memorial service will be held at United Congregational Church, 524 Valley Road, Middletown, R.I., Saturday, Feb. 12, at 11:30 a.m.  The family will also hold a private service at a later date.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Newport Hospital or the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at www.racingmuseum.org.

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