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David Heerensperger, owned Hawksley Hill and Grade 1 winners Millennium Wind and Artiste Royal, dies at 82

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

David Heerensperger, who won multiple Grade 1 races but is probably best known for owning the star-crossed Hawksley Hill, died on Sunday in his native Washington. He was 82.

Hawksley Hill – whom Heerensperger owned with wife at the time, Jill -- was involved in one of the most famous races in Breeders’ Cup history. He had the lead in deep stretch in the 1998 Mile on turf at Churchill Downs, only to have Da Hoss re-rally and prevail by a head, giving Da Hoss – who was racing for only the second time in two years – his second win in the race.

Hawksley Hill in 1999 was first across the wire in the Atto Mile at Woodbine, but was disqualified for interference and placed fourth.

Hawksley Hill, based on the Southern California circuit with Neil Drysdale, was a five-time graded stakes winner, including the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita in 1998.

Heerensperger had success in Grade 1 races, most notably with Millennium Wind, who won the 2001 Blue Grass Stakes for trainer David Hofmans. He also owned two-time Grade 1 turf winner Artiste Royal, a Drysdale trainee whose victories included the Charles Whittingham – Drysdale’s mentor – at Hollywood Park in 2008.

He and Drysdale also teamed to win the Whittingham in 2008 with Fire With Fire. Heerensperger also owned Bourbon Bay, a two-time winner of the San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita.

A successful businessman, Heerensperger founded the hardware chain Eagle Hardware and Garden – which numbered 32 stores in nine Western states when sold to Lowe’s in 1998 -- and previously was co-owner of the hardware chain Pay ’n Pak, both based in the Pacific Northwest. He also was heavily involved in hydroplane racing for 20 years, beginning in the 1960s.

Heerensperger is survived by his fiancée, Nikki Johnson, and four children from his previous marriage.

A celebration of life is being planned, likely for January in Washington, Johnson said.

 

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