Horseman Ralph Kercheval Dies at 98

Kentucky native Kercheval managed Vanderbilt's Sagamore Farm in Maryland.

Ralph G. Kercheval, who managed Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s Sagamore Farm in Maryland during the days of Native Dancer, died Oct. 6 in Lexington after a long illness. He was 98.

Born in Salt Lick, Ky., and raised in Lexington, Kercheval was All-Southeast Conference in football as a backfield star at the University of Kentucky. He graduated with a degree in animal husbandry.

Kercheval played seven years in the NFL for the old Brooklyn Dodgers. (Yes, not the baseball Dodgers.) He was believed to have been the oldest living NFL player at the time of his death.

During the off season, Kercheval worked at C.V. Whitney’s farm near Lexington.

Kercheval served in the Army during World War II. He attained the rank of lieutenant colonel and was the commanding officer of Fort Robinson in Nebraska.

Kercheval trained horses for Maine Chance Farm and other farms before becoming general manager of Sagamore. Native Dancer, who was foaled in Kentucky, grew up at Sagamore during the time Kercheval managed the farm. Native Dancer developed into an all-time great as a racehorse and as a stallion. 

Returning to Lexington in 1958, Kercheval became a managing partner of Idle Hour Farm. He later trained horses and became bloodstock manager for New York investment banker Robert Lehman.

In 1969, Kercheval leased Gallaher Farm and bred, raced, and sold horses. He later turned the Gallaher operation over to his son, Hal, when the elder Kercheval assumed the duties and vice presidency of Mereworth Farm.

Ralph Kercheval raced several stakes winners, including homebred grade II winner Fleet Victress. In 1981, Kercheval became one of the original directors of Kirk Horse Insurance. He was director emeritus at the time of his death.

Kercheval was a president of the Thoroughbred Club of America, a vice president of the Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky, and a member of the Keeneland Club.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to: Hospice of the Bluegrass, 2312 Alexandria Dr., Lexington, Ky.  40504; or Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (designated for Alzheimer’s research only, please), 101 Sanders Brown Building, 800 S. Limestone St., Lexington, Ky.  40536.  Milward-Broadway, 159 North Broadway, Lexington, Ky.  40507, is in charge of arrangements.