Trainer Sonny Wigginton Dies at Age 78

Longtime Kentucky trainer "Sonny" Wigginton died July 30 in Lexington. He was 78.

Thoroughbred trainer Jesse Norman "Sonny" Wigginton died July 30 at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington. He was 78.

A native Lexingtonian and graduate of the University of Kentucky, Wigginton served in the U.S. Army in Korea before embarking on a training career.

He learned the racing trade working with Hal W. Steele and in the racing office of the former Miles Park in Louisville, Ky. Taking out his trainer's license in 1968, Wigginton opened his stable and won his first race that same year.

Based at Keeneland, Wigginton raced on the Kentucky circuit, wintering at Oaklawn Park and sometimes traveling to other tracks such as Arlington Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Belmont Park.

Among the better-known horses in his shedrow were Gold Spring, winner of the grade III A Phenomenon Stakes at Saratoga; Jake the Flake, a gelding out of Gold Spring; Flying Continental, who captured Arlington Park's Wedgewood Handicap; and multiple stakes winner Bidis. He was particularly fond of Native of Kentucky, with whom he visited the winner's circle 13 times.

Wigginton retired from training in 2011, transferring his horses to his assistant, Dean Ward.

He is survived by his wife, Lydia, daughter Leah (Michael) Yagodich, two sisters, two grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

Visitation will take place Saturday, Aug. 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Milward on North Broadway in Lexington. Funeral services will be private.

Memorials may be made to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Hospice Unit 27-2, 1101 Veterans Drive, Lexington, Ky., 40502 or to the Keeneland Association Chaplaincy, Michael Powers, P.O. Box 1690, Lexington, Ky., 40510.