Breeder/owner C. Francis "Frank" Hopkins Sr., a former member of the Maryland Racing Commission, died May 19 of heart failure at his Elberton Hill Farm near Darlington, according to the Baltimore Sun
. He was 79.
"There was something always very special about Frank," said Chick Lang, a longtime friend and former Pimlico general manager. "He loved the business and did very well at it, and many of his horses were named after his farm. He was a class act who bred horses with plenty of class."
He "loved farming, and his favorite thing was being on a tractor," said his wife of 54 years, Martha Jane.
Hopkins, born in Aberdeen, served with the Army in Germany after World War II. Following the war, he was a purchasing agent for the Army Chemical Center at Edgewood Arsenal. He was a sales representative for John J. Greer & Co. Inc., a local steel warehousing firm, from 1955 until 1961, when he joined the U.S. Department of Commerce to promote American firms at overseas trade fairs. He was named director of the department's field office in Baltimore in 1964 and retired in the early 1980s.
In 1962, Hopkins moved to Elberton Hill Farm, which had been in his family since the 1600s. Hopkins and his wife thought rural life and fresh air would be good for their large family -- although at the time he was thinking more about swimming pools than breeding racehorses.
Hopkins was introduced to horses by the Pons family, owners of Country Life Farm in Bel Air. "The Pons family became friendly with us through our mutual church activities, and if you ever go to a Pons party you find yourself drowning in horse talk," he told the Maryland Horse. "Well, we wound up buying a brood mare. ... She was our first Thoroughbred."
His best-known runners included Aberfoyle, winner of the 1997 Maryland Million Sprint, and Elberton, winner of the 2001 Maryland Million Turf.
Hopkins was appointed to the racing commission in 1992 by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and served until 2001. As much as Mr. Hopkins loved racing, he could be critical of it.
"He didn't duck or avoid sensitive issues," said Lang. "He had strong opinions and feelings that were always motivated by what was best for racing."
He had a reputation for sticking up for the "little man" in racing, and sought special consideration for those who bred and raced horses in Maryland.
Hopkins had served on the board of the Maryland Million and had been vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association for two terms. He also served on the Maryland Horseman's Assistance Fund Inc. and the Cecil County Breeders' Fair Board.
Survivors, in addition to his wife, include two sons, C. Frank Hopkins Jr. and J. Michael W. Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission; and daughters, Martha "Boo" Hopkins Chrismer and Amy Hopkins Daney, all of Elberton Hill Farm.