Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Owner of Calumet Farm dies

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Henryk de Kwiatkowski, owner of Calumet Farm since 1992, died Monday at his home in the Bahamas. He was 79.

Keeneland spokesman Jim Williams said Calumet Farm had asked the Lexington race track to announce de Kwiatkowski's death.

Born in Poland in 1924, de Kwiatkowski was educated in England and emigrated to Canada in 1952 to work as an aeronautical engineer. In 1957, he came to the United States and founded de Kwiatkowski Aircraft Ltd., then became interested in thoroughbred racing.

Among his horses was Conquistador Cielo, the 1982 Horse of the Year in North America, who won the Belmont Stakes that year. He also owned Danzig, a highly influential stallion, and won another Belmont with Danzig Connection in 1986.

Before de Kwiatkowski, Calumet had bred nine Kentucky Derby winners and owned eight, including Triple Crown winners Whirlaway, in 1941 and Citation in 1948. But for all its fame, Calumet Farms could not fend off financial problems.

Mounting debts totaling more than $100 million forced Calumet to file for bankruptcy in 1991.

When de Kwiatkowski bought the historic 762-acre thoroughbred farm in March 1992 for $17 million, he celebrated the purchase by drinking champagne with farm employees.

"The thoroughbred industry has lost a passionate stalwart and central Kentucky has lost a dear friend," Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said in a statement. "From the day he rescued Calumet and vowed never to change a blade of grass, he won the hearts of all central Kentuckians and horse lovers everywhere."

The farm's most famous horse may have been Alydar, second to Affirmed in three memorable Triple Crown races in 1978.

Alydar was euthanized shortly after breaking his right hind leg in his stall at the farm on Nov. 13, 1990. The colt reportedly fractured the leg by kicking a wall, and the farm had an insurance policy on him worth more than $36 million.

In 1998, however, a former Calumet groom on duty the night Alydar was hurt, was convicted of lying to a Houston grand jury investigating the death and served a 10-month perjury sentence.

In 2000, former Calumet president J.T. Lundy and Gary Matthews, the stable's one-time chief financial officer and legal counsel, were convicted of fraud and bribery.

Alydar had developed into a leading stallion when he died, siring 1988 Horse of the Year and 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba, and 1991 Kentucky Derby winner Strike The Gold, among others.

Calumet and de Kwiatkowski also enjoyed recent success.

Calumet's Region of Merit won the Tampa Bay Derby on Sunday for the 3-year-old's fourth win in five career starts. The colt has earned $193,200 for Calumet.

"He did a lot of things in thoroughbred racing, but saving Calumet Farm was something the industry will be eternally indebted to him for," said John Asher, a spokesman for Churchill Downs in Louisville.

He is survived by wife Barbara, daughters Michelle, Nicole, Arianne and Alexandria, and sons Conrad, Stephan and Nicholas.

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