Ralph Wilson Jr., who bred the spectacular winner of the 1991 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Arazi, has died at age 95.
Best known as the owner of the Buffalo Bills and one of the founders of the American Football League, Wilson died at his Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich. home March 25. Bills president Russ Brandon made the announcement at the NFL winter meetings in Orlando.
In horse racing Wilson is best known as the breeder of 1991 champion juvenile male Arazi, who also earned Horse of the Year honors in Europe that season. At 2, Arazi opened his career in France where he won six of seven starts, including three group I races. The son of Blushing Groom then delivered a memorable victory in his first start on dirt, drawing off to a five-length score over 13 other rivals in the $1 million Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
While Allen Paulson and Sheikh Mohammed's Arazi would prep for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with a single race in France, bettors recalled the spectacular Juvenile effort and sent him off as the 9-10 Derby favorite, where he would finish eighth of 18 to Lil E. Tee.
Out of the Northern Dancer mare Danseur Fabuleux, Arazi won nine of 14 starts and earned $1,212,351. Wilson dispersed most of his breeding stock in 1989 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale where Arazi was landed by Paulson for $350,000.
Other top runners campaigned by Wilson include homebred Jim French, who won the 1971 Santa Anita Derby and five other stakes races; and West Coast Scout, two-time winner of the Amory L. Haskell Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth Park and winner (by disqualification) of the 1971 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. He also set a track record at Monmouth when winning the 1971 Monmouth Invitational Handicap at 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.
Wilson bought his first yearling at Keeneland in 1950 before his dispersal nearly 40 years later. Wilson told the Blood-Horse that he didn't have as much time to see his horses race and some of his friends were no longer involved in racing. At the dispersal, 48 horses sold for $16,872,700.
Wilson recently had been receiving in-home hospice care. He had been in failing health for several years after having hip surgery in 2011. After regularly attending Bills home games since founding the franchise, Wilson had not been to a game since attending one in 2010.
"No one loves this game more than Ralph Wilson," Brandon said in a statement. "It's very tough. What he's meant to the entire organization. He's our leader, our mentor our friend. How he loves his players and loved our community. Special guy. They just don't make them like Ralph Wilson."
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misidentified West Coast Scout as setting a track record in the Woodward Stakes. Cougar II finished first in the race in 2:00.40 but was disqualified and placed third.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.