Hall of Fame steeplechase jockey Frank D. "Dooley" Adams died Nov. 12 in his hometown of Southern Pines, N.C. He was 77.
Adams gained fame as a steeplechase jockey by winning 301 races and garnering seven National Steeplechase Association championships during a career that lasted from 1941-1956. He was inducted into Thoroughbred racing's Hall of Fame in 1970.
Born in Port Chester, N.Y., Adams grew up with horses and lived for a time in Connecticut where his father, Frank, was the manager and huntsman of the Watertown Hunt. His mother Clara's family had Standardbreds. The family moved to the San Diego, Calif., area in the late 1930s, and Clara turned to Thoroughbreds--training flat and steeplechase horses to race at Agua Caliente in Mexico. The family returned East in the mid-'40s.
Among the horses ridden by Adams were champions Elkridge, Neji, Oedipus, and Ancestor. In his final ride, he won the 1956 Temple Gwathmey Handicap aboard Ancestor.
None of those heroes matched Refugio, his most legendary ride. Purchased by his parents for $300, the California-bred won on the flat and over jumps at Agua Caliente and was a competitive jumper on the U.S. circuit with a third-place finish in the 1946 American Grand National. A different Grand National beckoned, and the horse went to England late that fall. With Adams aboard, Refugio was one of 57 starters in the 1947 English Grand National. They finished seventh in a heroic effort, and the family farm was named after the horse.
He won five consecutive championships (1951-55) and three times won more than 30 races, a benchmark for U.S. jump jockeys. In 1954, Adams won a record 38 races. That number has been surpassed just once, when fellow Hall of Famer Joe Aitcheson took down 40 in 1964.
Adams is survived by a son, Frank Michael Adams; a daughter, Melissa Adams; a sister, Joan Ketcha; and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 17 at Refugio Farm, 496 Yadkin Road, Southern Pines. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the St. Labre Indian School, Tongue River Road, Ashland, MT 59004.