Leading California Breeder Keith Card Dies

State racing Hall of Fame member bred and raced Linda Card, California Flag.

Keith Card, former president of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association and recently inducted into the state's Racing Hall of Fame, died March 8. He was 83.

Card was inducted into the Hall of Fame seven years after he revived it from long-term inactivity. He earned the honor for four decades of breeding that included Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner California Flag and Linda Card, among others.

A memorial service is to be held at Hi Card Ranch, 19050 Alborado Ave, Murrieta, on March 19 at 2 p.m.

A native of Montana who served in the Navy during World War II, Card had been involved in racing since 1957. He and his wife of 21 years, Barbara, own Hi Card Ranch, a small but successful operation in Murrieta. Although the Cards only produced a few foals each year, they have been among the leading breeders in the state for decades.

After starting with Quarter Horses, Card made the switch to Thoroughbreds in 1964. His first star was homebred Linda Card, who won the inaugural California Cup Distaff in 1990. Linda Card, who was named for Card’s daughter-in-law, won eight of her 33 starts with eight seconds and three thirds while amassing $340,318. The graded-stakes-placed daughter of Noble Monk retired with three stakes wins to her credit.

He campaigned Freedom Cry, who gave him his only grade I score in the Santa Monica Handicap in 1993. The daughter of Wolf Power (SAF) earned $382,500 over four seasons of racing with 10 wins, five seconds and two thirds in 27 starts.

Hi Card Ranch produced its first Breeders’ Cup winner, the powerful gray gelding named California Flag. The 7-year-old son of Avenue of Flags has earned $1,166,504 so far, and has become something of a globetrotter after competing in group stakes races in both Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates. Prior to his Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint victory in 2009, California Flag captured the $100,000 Morvich Handicap (gr. III) and the Green Flash Handicap en route to being named California’s Champion Turf Horse and co-Horse of the Year.

Due to California Flag’s success, the Cards were honored at the annual Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association awards ceremony last September. They were named not only California Breeders of the Year, but also National Small Breeders of the Year.

Card was elected president of the CTBA in 2005. He had previously served on the Board as vice president, secretary and treasurer. He had been in ill health since suffering a stroke nearly three years ago.

“As we all know, Keith has been struggling with various health issues for some time now,” said Doug Burge, CTBA executive vice president and general manager. “He was excited and elated at the annual meeting when he received the great honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. That excitement kept a smile on his face for two solid days afterward.”

A kind touch of fate made that all possible and left him forever indebted to a future American president.

While serving in the Navy during World War II, Card was in Kingsville, Texas, when he was assigned to board a ship in San Francisco. En route to the West Coast, Card told California Thoroughbred magazine, his commander called him back to Texas. The ship in San Francisco that Card was supposed to be on was the last one sunk during the war by the Japanese. There were no survivors. The naval commander who summoned Card back was Richard Nixon.

“So you see, he saved my life,” Card related.