Herb Stevens, a retired Kentucky trainer who conditioned 1979 champion 2-year-old male Rockhill Native, died Feb. 9, of a heart attack in Versailles, Ky. He was 96.
Stevens trained Rockhill Native for owner Harry A. Oak. A gelding, Rockhill Native won the Futurity Stakes (gr. I), the Sapling Stakes (gr. I), the Cowdin Stakes (gr. II), and the Jefferson Cup the year of his championship. He also finished first in the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga but was disqualified and placed sixth.
Rockhill Native went off as the 2-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) under regular rider John Oldham following a score in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. Rockhill Native was second at the top of the stretch before weakening and finishing fifth behind the filly Genuine Risk. Five weeks later in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) Rockhill Native ran third in what would be his final start.
A third-generation horseman, Stevens was Keeneland's leading trainer at the 1970 fall meeting by number of wins with nine. He twice tied for the lead at the fall meeting in the 1960s.
Stevens sent out the first of his 45 stakes winners in 1957. The group includes Jelly Bean Holiday, winner of the 1982 Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland and the Adirondack Stakes (gr. III) at Saratoga.
Stevens is survived by his wife, Lady; a daughter, Patricia Williams, and a son, Mike. Visitation is Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. at Blackburn and Ward Funeral Home in Versailles, Ky. Graveside services will follow at Versailles Cemetery.