Pat Day remembers meeting Lynn Whiting the spring of 1974 at Rockingham Park. The astute horseman and future Hall of Fame jockey were 18 years away from a Kentucky Derby (G1) upset with Lil E. Tee, but their friendship blossomed long before the roses.
Whiting, a native of Great Falls, Mont., died April 19 in his home near Louisville after a long illness and recent stroke suffered in February, during the Oaklawn Park meet. He was 77. Whiting, who raced primarily in Kentucky and Arkansas, returned to the track just two days earlier to oversee his stable after weeks of hospital and rehabilitation care.
"He wasn't a self-promoter," Day said. "He never rang his own bell. He let his horses do the talking. He was an astute horseman (and) excellent caretaker, with excellent preparation, and he knew his horses. It was a joy to ride for him and work with him, but an even greater joy to be his friend."
Born June 28, 1939, the son of longtime horseman Lyle Whiting earned his first win as a trainer in 1969 at Rhode Island's Lincoln Downs. He sent out 6,113 runners, according to Equibase statistics. The soft-spoken Whiting was highly regarded by his peers as a patient, skilled, and accomplished horseman who possessed a keen eye for potential in young horses. His Kentucky Derby winner was the best-known example of the latter, as he was purchased privately by W. Cal Partee during the colt’s 2-year-old season for $200,000.
Lil E. Tee was the greatest of Whiting's 1,279 winners. Sent off at 16-1 in the 1992 Kentucky Derby with Day aboard, the At the Threshold runner circled the field and got up in a driving finish for a one-length score.
"I don't know how we got to the 25-year anniversary of that win so quickly," the retired jockey said. "To win the storied Kentucky Derby was the highlight of my racing career, and it was extra special to do it with Lynn and for Mr. Cal Partee."
Whiting's starters earned $23,960,058. His best year was 1992, when his single-season earnings topped out at $1,423,476 courtesy of Lil E. Tee's Derby surprise. In 2009 he became the 10th trainer to saddle 300 winners at Churchill Downs. His final victory came with Jury Wise March 10 at Oaklawn.
"I respected him as a horseman, but more as a person," Day said. "He was a stand-up guy. You'd have to look really hard to find somebody who had a bad word to say about him. He was a man of his word, a stellar individual, a great horseman, a great husband, father, and grandfather, and certainly a dear friend to myself and my family, and to a number of people on the racetrack. He will be sorely missed."
Whiting is survived by his wife, Nell; daughters Kerri and Lori; and three grandchildren. Memorial arrangements are pending.