by Penny Loeb
Chris Brown, an equine dentist who in 2009 won a New York appellate court decision granting lay dentists the right to practice in the state, died at home July 14. He was 68 and had been suffering from heart disease.
Based at Belmont Park, Brown was well-known at New York tracks, as well as across the country. Many of the nation's top trainers employed him, including the late Robert Frankel, Bill Mott, Christophe Clement, Neil Howard, and Claude "Shug" McGhaughy III. Among the many legendary horses Brown worked with are Personal Ensign, Cigar, Empire Maker, and Mineshaft .
Hall of Fame trainer Mott said, "Chris was very good. He knew and loved horses. He was a true horseman. He took care of a lot of our good horses, from Cigar, to Escena, to now Royal Delta. Chris was very loyal and was very appreciative of the returned loyalty. His love of horses gave us a common bond, a bond that holds all of us in this field together."
Born in New Jersey, Brown began his career with horses as a teenager at the palatial Gladstone, N.J., headquarters of the United States Equestrian Team. In his 20s, Brown managed several A-circuit horse show stables, including that of John Leib, when he and his wife, Kathryn, campaigned champion Model Cadet.
Brown kept contact with the horse show world throughout his life, moving many former racehorses on to careers as show horses. Perhaps his most famous find was Sloopy, who won the bronze medal in show jumping at the 1972 Olympics. He also sent horses off to steeplechase racing, and was close to a number of those trainers, including Thomas Voss and Arch Kingsley Jr.
Brown began his career at the racetrack as an assistant to trainer David Whiteley, where helped develop Belmont winner Coastal and champion mare Waya.
In 2006, Brown and other lay dentists were ruled off because the New York Racing Association tracks believed they were not properly licensed. Brown fought back, winning first in 2007 in Nassau County Supreme Court and then the final appellate decision. Trainers who testified on his behalf included Billy Turner, who trained Seattle Slew, and Pat Kelly.
The track, especially Belmont, was Brown's life. He was beloved on the backside, well known for bringing cakes and cookies from The Buttercooky in Floral Park to grooms and security guards. Brown taught a horse management course in the Backstretch Education Fund training program, established at Belmont in 2006 by photographer Lisa Ford, and was known for helping grooms learn English and gain self-esteem.
"He brought a lot of cheer to the backstretch," said Humberto Chavez, chaplain for the Racetrack Chaplaincy of New York. "The grooms and hot walkers told me they will miss that smile."
A memorial service for Brown will be held at a later date. Donations can be made in memory of Chris Brown to The Racetrack Chaplaincy of New York.
Loeb was a longtime companion of Chris Brown. She wrote this with Brown's close friend Kassie Kingsley.