COLUMBIA, Mo. — Dolphus Morrison, a longtime horseman and the breeder of the great filly Rachel Alexandra, has died. He was 82.
He died Wednesday at a nursing home and had Alzheimer’s, his wife, Ellen, said.
Morrison was involved in thoroughbred racing for more than three decades when he and trainer Hal Wiggins struck gold with Rachel Alexandra in 2009. The champion filly, named after a granddaughter of Morrison’s, won the Preakness that year and became the face of his breeding program.
“He was kind, he was smart, he was generous,” breeder and longtime friend Dede McGehee of Heaven Trees Farm told The Blood-Horse, a thoroughbred racing trade publication. “He was a little unorthodox at times, but he was a father figure to me. He was kind to everyone who worked on the farm, he was kind to everyone who worked on the track. He treated everybody with respect.”
After Wiggins decided to switch jockeys to Calvin Borel, Rachel Alexandra took off on a nine-race winning streak. Rachel Alexandra soared to victory in the Kentucky Oaks by a record 20 1⁄4 lengths and became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Other victories in 2009 included the Haskell and Woodward, and she was honored as Horse of the Year. In August she was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.
Morrison nearly sold Rachel Alexandra when she didn’t display early signs of the champion she would become. She finished sixth in her 2-year-old debut in May 2008 at Churchill Downs and won only two of her first five starts. He and partner Mike Lauffer finally sold her to Stonestreet Stables before the Preakness.
Morrison ended his breeding operation in 2012.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children and two grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.