VETERAN TRAINER NEIL FRENCH PASSES AT AGE 68
ARCADIA, Calif. (April 10, 2021)–A highly respected horseman, trainer Neil French passed away from heart failure Saturday morning at age 68 at Arcadia Methodist Hospital. Beset with rheumatoid arthritis for the past 10 years, French marshalled on with a small stable, assisted by a golf cart which took him from his barn to Santa Anita’s Grandstand apron, where he was able to observe his horses train.
“The horses were his life,” said French’s sister Joy from her home in Spooner, Wisconsin. “The arthritis was very, very hard on him and this time, he had to go to the hospital and his heart gave out. He never got married or had kids, the horses were his life.
“Our family is from Wisconsin and my dad had an uncle who was a licensed blacksmith in Los Angeles, so my parents moved out there in 1950, because my dad (Arden French) wanted to learn that trade. He did and he worked as a farrier at Los Alamitos before he became a Quarter Horse trainer in the late 50s. Neil was skinny as a rail and he used to get on my dad’s horses when he switched over to Thoroughbreds.”
A licensed Thoroughbred trainer since 1971, Neil French, who trained primarily in Southern California, would have turned 69 on July 25.
Among his top horses were Pencil Point, a winner of the 1982 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar and June’s Reward, a California-bred gelding by Hail Bold King. June’s Reward, who was owned by Ken Porter, was an unlucky third in the 1991, Grade II Del Mar Derby under Alex Solis. He would go on to win the 1992 California Cup Classic at Santa Anita under Eddie Delahoussaye and returned $10.80 to win.
“He was a guy with not too many horses, but I loved riding for him,” said Delahoussaye. “I won quite a few races for him, he was a real good horseman and a nice guy. We were pretty close in age and I’m really sad to hear this, he’ll be missed.”
French’s last stakes-caliber horse was Chocolate Coated, a Kentucky-bred filly by Candy Ride who was second in Santa Anita’s Grade II Autumn Miss Stakes on Oct. 29, 2017.
Among some of French’s other notable runners are Wanstead Gardens ($200,325), Princess V ($173,209), Slew City Citadel ($159,024), Basic Rate ($150,975), Young Flyer ($144,025) and Grinding It Out ($138,120).
French won 257 races from 2,080 starters, who earned $6,436,620.
Neil French is survived by his mother, Loretta, three sisters, Joy, Joan and Sundee, as well as many nieces and nephews.
Services are pending at this time and will be made known via the Santa Anita Racing Office in the near future.