W. T. Young: 'Made a Huge Contribution to Every Endeavor'; 'Kindly and Gracious Manner'; 'Sensitive to People'

W. T. Young: 'Made a Huge Contribution to Every Endeavor';  'Kindly and Gracious Manner'; 'Sensitive to People'
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
William T. Young.
Compiled by Tom LaMarra, Kristin Ingwell Goode, David Schmitz, Lenny Shulman

Alex G. Campbell Jr., the owner and breeder who got W.T. Young involved in racing in the early 1970s:

"I've known Bill since the 1950s. We were both young business people starting out and we got together, we started or bought a little company together. Of course he was the best friend I ever had. Bill had as much character as any person I know. I never have seen him lose his cool.

"I think in my lifetime he is the outstanding man of our state, or certainly in our city. No one's done more for the Lexington community or the state that I know.

"He brought Transylvania University into what it is today. He improved the quality of Shakertown tremendously, what he did over there is remarkable. I think the University of Kentucky library is as good as any in the country.

"A lot of the things he did you don't read about. I don't think he turned anybody down completely. He was a great giver. I think that's one of the greatest qualities people can have. I never ask Bill for anything because I never have to. If I start anything, he sends a check in. He's that way I think with a lot of people. He's very generous."

James E. (Ted) Bassett, trustee and former president, Keeneland:
"Behind Bill Young's kindly and gracious manner, was a highly intelligent and focused gentleman, whose trademark was his attention to detail and unwavering perseverance in pursuit of his goals. When he spoke, everyone listened. For he was never un-informed and his tactful yet forthright views were always respected and generally accepted. He was truly a giant among men who accepted success like a gentleman and disappointments like a man. He was a real icon."

John R. Gaines, founder, Breeders' Cup Ltd.; co-chairman, W.T. Young Library; board of curators, Transylvania University, and fellow horseman:
"W. T. Young was the first citizen of the Commonwealth of Kentucky--first in his noble character, first in his generous spirit, first in his creative endeavors, and first in the hearts of his friends."

Nick Nicholson, president of Keeneland:
"We feel like we've lost our number one citizen from a community standpoint, and certainly an influential citizen from an industry standpoint. I really cherished our time together. He was a wonderful teacher, and he was willing to share his experiences and thought processes. His unselfishness was always appreciated.

"He really understood Keeneland. When I was appointed president, I can remember the next conversation I had with him. He said Keeneland needed to stay a for-profit corporation with a non-profit mission, and that in order to accomplish that not-for-profit mission, Keeneland had to stay strong financially. I thought, 'How astute.'

"He was very sensitive to people, and not just 'important' people. He was very fond of and close to the people at Keeneland that served him. He knew all of their names. If you look at some Overbrook winner's circle photos, sometimes you'll see his waitress. He was certainly unique in that way. It was very real and genuine, and something that came natural to him. I thought he was a good example for all of us."

D.G. Van Clief Jr., president of Breeders' Cup Ltd.:
"Beyond his accomplishments, which are legendary...what many of us will remember him for are his human qualities. Bill was immensely loyal to his friends and associates, and he was an absolutely fair person. He never failed to give the benefit of the doubt, and he was fair to people of all walks of life. On top of all that, he was a wonderful human being.

"You'd have to say Bill made a huge contribution to every endeavor, institution, and person he was involved with in his life. He was a great encouragement to me personally. He had served as a key player in the development of the Breeders' Cup, and when he stepped down from active service, he became a director emeritus and still attended meetings.

"After one of those meetings at Keeneland, he said to me, 'You and (NTRA commissioner) Tim Smith need to get to work to put these two organizations together.' I'd say Bill was the first of our directors to openly encourage, and in fact unequivocally state, the two organizations should be put together. He was quite adamant about that."

Tim Smith, commissioner, National Thoroughbred Racing Association:
"He was a good friend and a mentor. I'll miss him a lot. He had an abundance of optimism and positive energy about everything, specifically our business. The great thing is he combined that with literally a steel-trap mind. He was a very, very unusual combination of a sweet man who was far from naïve, and who could even be tough and blunt.

"I personally found it to be an unbeatable combination. It made him a great guy to talk to for advice. He wouldn't let you get away with a pessimistic or cynical thought or conclusion, and he also wouldn't let you get away with a sloppy analytical point. He was very optimistic but also very rigorous, as near as I can tell, to his last day.

"In terms of the business, what people may not realize is that, among his accomplishments, he was the behind-the-scenes architect of the NTRA and Breeders' Cup combination. He had D.G. (Van Clief Jr.) and I over to his office a couple of times to drive the point home about how it would help both organizations. It was classic W.T. Young: We told him the barriers and he literally pushed them aside. He said, 'You boys do it, and don't come back and tell me why you couldn't.'

"My immediate sense of regret was that we'd been trying to get together for a month or two but never got a chance to do it. I would make it a point to see him a couple of times a year to get his thoughts on everything--the business, the industry, how things were going, and any advice he could offer. He's just irreplaceable for Kentucky and the business, but fortunately it's a strong family, and I'm sure they'll continue as a major force in the industry."

William S. Farish, owner, Lane's End Farm; vice president, steward, The Jockey Club:
"Bill Young was one of the greatest men I have ever known. What he has done for the city, for his family, and for racing--he was such a dominant figure. His contributions to his hometown and particularly the sport of racing were remarkable. I will miss him."

Dotty Brotherton, daughter of David Reynolds, who bred and raced 1994 Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont (gr. I) winner Tabasco Cat with Young:
"He was a special kind of steadfast friend for my dad, not just in the good times, but in the bad. He was close to me and my two sisters, Julie Swords, and Margie Mackell. Mr. Young was one of the directors of Reynolds Metals and Dad was one of the early supporters of Storm Cat before he became popular. The third time was the charm because Tabasco Cat was the result. My dad and Mr. Young and (breeder-owner) Mr. Campbell were all close."

Satish Sanan, whose family owns Padua Stable, a Florida operation Sanan said uses Overbrook Farm as a role model in the industry:

"He was the first one I would call when I needed advice. I'd pick up the phone and say 'Mr. Young I screwed up here.' He'd say, 'Don't worry, I did the same thing myself.' If there was anything he could do he would pick up the phone and call someone that could help you.

"When my technology company had trouble in 1999, I barely knew him, but I phoned him and said, 'Mr. Young, I need some advice and need some help.' It was incredible. He spent the better part of the day talking to me, then put Bob Warren (Overbrook Farm's general manager) on the phone while he called some financial institutions that helped get me through the problems. People like that are few and far between. The true judge of friendship is when you are in need, people step up.

"There are a lot of big people in this industry, but there are no other Bill Youngs."

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