Sam Shepard, right, portrayed trainer Frank Whiteley in the TV movie "Ruffian"

Sam Shepard, right, portrayed trainer Frank Whiteley in the TV movie "Ruffian"


Breeder, Actor, Playwright Sam Shepard Dead at 73

Renaissance Man Sam Shepard grew up around horses in Southern California.

Sam Shepard, a playwright, actor, musician, director, screenwriter, and author who also bred Thoroughbreds, died July 27 at his Totier Creek Farm near Midway, Ky., of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 73.

Shepard grew up around horses in Southern California, working at various farms in the area and serving as a hotwalker at Santa Anita Park. He gave up the horses after stints of rodeoing, team-roping, and bareback riding, for a typewriter. His play "Buried Child" won him a Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1979. He wrote a dozen of produced plays and was nominated for two Tony Awards and won multiple Obie Awards. As an actor, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in "The Right Stuff."

Shepard was also a musican of note, co-writing "Brownsville Girl" with Bob Dylan and playing with the 1960s band Holy Modal Rounders, with whom he continued to perform for decades.

He bought his first Thoroughbred in 1987, a half-sister to Carol's Christmas named River Chant. Shepard bred Nile Chant out of River Chant, and Nile Chant went on to produce the Shepard-bred stakes winner Ornate.

Under his Totier Creek banner, Shepard bred multiple stakes winner Two Trail Sioux, who took the 2005 Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2) and that year’s Bayakoa Stakes; and China, who won the Bonapaw Stakes.

Shepard bought his Midway farm in 2000, keeping cutting horses and cattle on it while boarding his mares at nearby Nuckols Farm.

"I plan all the matings and never talk to bloodstock agents," he said in a 2007 interview with Bloodhorse. "I spend endless hours poring over pedigrees, but some of the best horses I've bred came from instinct."

Like many of the cowboy characters he played, Shepard was independent, private, and humble. He maintained homes in New York City, Mexico, and Montana, where he enjoyed fishing. He had a longtime relationship with actress Jessica Lange, the mother of two of his three children.