California Breeder Kjell Qvale Dies at 94

Norwegian-born automotive executive raced Variety Road, stood sire Silky Sullivan.

Longtime Northern California Thoroughbred owner and breeder Kjell Qvale, a Norwegian-born automotive executive, died Nov. 2 in San Francisco at the age of 94.

He came to America in 1929 and was a pioneer in the California automobile industry following service during World War II. His love of foreign vehicles inspired him to import many different makes from such manufacturers as MG, Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, Maserati, Rolls Royce, and others.

Qvale was just as passionate about horse racing, and his stable included many top runners in California such as grade I winner Variety Road, who successfully battled the likes of Broad Brush, Snow Chief, and Ferdinand in the late 1980s. He bred horses in California for more than 40 years, racing stakes winners Variety Baby, Silveyville, Halo Folks, and others.

Among the stallions he stood at his Napa Valley farm was the legendary Silky Sullivan. Bruce Headley and Jerry Hollendorfer were among the trainers he employed.

His homebred Variety Road, who was trained by Headley and Hollendorfer, won 17 of 59 races over a seven-year career between 1985-91 while earning $964,540. His biggest win came as a 4-year-old in the 1987 San Fernando Stakes (gr. I), when he nipped Broad Brush at the wire with Snow Chief and Ferdinand right behind them. Variety Road won the San Rafael (gr. II) and San Felipe (gr. I) stakes at 3, but missed the Triple Crown with an illness.

Qvale was president of the Pacific Racing Association at Golden Gate Fields and also served as chairman of the board of Bay Meadows Racetrack. Always a charitable man, he donated a large supply of medical equipment to other tracks to help injured jockeys and horses.

He maintained an active racing stable until his passing, winning a maiden claiming race Oct. 20 at Santa Anita Park with the Headley-trained Carlsbad Mountain.

Two sons, Jeff and Bruce, survive him, as do seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His wife of 57 years, Kay, died in 2005. Information on services was not immediately available.