Dr. Alex Harthill.

Dr. Alex Harthill.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Friends, Colleagues Reflect on Harthill's Life

By David Schmitz and
Kathleen Adams

When Dr. Alex "Doc" Harthill died July 16 at a Louisville, Ky. hospice of complications from pneumonia and a stroke at age 80, it marked the end of an era in veterinary medicine at Churchill Downs.

Some of those within the racing community who knew him best reflect on Harthill's career.

William "Jinks" Fires, trainer: "We're losing a great veterinarian and a good friend. He was one of a kind. He was the best and was one of the most dedicated persons to the racing community. At 75, he was still going to veterinarian clinics. He never stopped learning. Unfortunately, time just caught up."

Pat Day, jockey: "The passing of Doctor Harthill is the end of an era. He was a dear friend of mine for nearly 30 years. He was a wealth of information and will be missed. He was instrumental in getting me to come to Kentucky the first time and helping us get started. He met my mother and father and was very sweet to them. He was a man who will live on forever in my heart."

Lynn Whiting, trainer: "He'll be missed. Everyone had a great affection for Doc. He was so helpful to everyone--horsemen and pony people. He would do things for people at no charge. If you were his friend, you had a friend for life. He was the most respected veterinarian in the Thoroughbred world."

Dr. Gary Priest, veterinarian: "He was a mentor to me. He shared everything he had learned from day one with me. I heard from other people I was the only one that he did that to. He was constantly on the go and read everything pertinent to horses. He spent countless hours developing new procedures and repeatedly trying them. It was miserable for him not going to work during the latter stages. It really took its toll."

Martha McRae, manager, track kitchen at Churchill Downs: "We are all very sad about it. He would just tell stories all the time. He was great to have around. Doc was Doc. He just said what he wanted to say."

Linda Criswell, Martha McRae's sister and an employee at Churchill Downs' track kitchen: "I've just lost my best pal. I just got so attached to him. People would tell me bad things about him, but Doc never spoke one bad word to me. I I'll miss seeing him come through the door."

Harthill is survived by daughters Alexis and Meha. Contributions may be made to the Shoemaker Foundation, 1050 S. Prairie Ave., Inglewood, Calif. 90301; Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy of America, 9013 Lyneve Dr., Louisville, Ky. 40272; or Hospice & Palliative Care of Louisville, 3532 Ephraim McDowell Dr., Louisville, Ky. 40205.