Steeplechase owner Henry Stern dies at 88

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Longtime steeplechase owner Henry Stern, whose neon green and pink silks won numerous major races on the American circuit, died Tuesday. He was 88.

Stern lived in Richmond, Va. and headed a building/development company responsible for several successful projects in his hometown. But he was best known for a horse, Saluter. The timber stalwart won the Virginia Gold Cup a record six times – 1994-99 and set a record for timber victories with 21. The powerhouse bay son of Salutely was trained by Jack Fisher, who guided the careers of other Stern standouts including Darn Tipalarm, Paradise’s Boss, South Of Java and others.

Stern got into racing on somewhat of a lark. He had attended the Strawberry Hill Races in Richmond for years. He discussed what it would take to own a horse with bloodstock agent Tyson Gilpin, who suggested Stern call Fisher.

“He called me out of the blue and said he wanted to win the Deep Run Hunt Cup (then the feature at Strawberry Hill, but a relatively minor race),” said Fisher. “People usually want to win bigger races, more important races. The Deep Run Hunt Cup? We could do that.”

Stern’s first horse, Caronee, won the timber race in 1991 and the hook was set. Stern’s horses –¬†running in his wife Ann’s name – went on to earn just shy of $2 million in American steeplechase races. Four-time timber champion Saluter led the way with $429,489, not including a $100,000 bonus and English purse money for winning the short-lived World Timber Championship of the Virginia Gold Cup and Marlborough Cup in Britain. Saluter dominated timber racing during his career, which lasted from 1993-2000, but was especially good in the Gold Cup. He won the 4-mile race six times and was third in his seventh attempt. He also won the International Gold Cup over the same course (but at 3 1/2 miles) twice. Stablemate Darn Tipalarm won nine races and more than $300,000 while Paradise’s Boss added nine wins and more than $330,000.

“He was the perfect owner, I don’t think we ever had a discussion about anything, it was just fun,” said Fisher. “The only time he said no to buying a horse was with Bubble Economy (who went on to earn more than $400,000) and he used to always tell me ‘I should have bought that horse.’ “

Stern was born in 1923 in Richmond and graduated from Dartmouth College. He served in the Navy during World War II and joined his family’s millinery business, The Kaufman Company. Later, with partner Dave Arenstein, he launched the development business. In addition to racing, Stern was involved with hunting, fishing and golf, Labrador retriever trials, topiary, bonsai, Chinese export porcelain and antiques. He served on many boards including the National Steeplechase Association, Boy Scouts, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the University of Richmond, Saint Christopher’s School, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and was a National Trustee of Ducks Unlimited.

Stern is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ann Couch Stern; his children, Sidney Stern and his wife, Sara; Connie Moore and her husband, Glenn; and Hank Stern and his wife, Olga; and his sister Dina Stern Boettcher; plus 11 grandchildren.

A graveside service will be held Friday, Dec. 30 at 11 a.m. at Hebrew Cemetery, 4th and Hospital Streets in Richmond. Contributions, in lieu of flowers, may be made to the University of Richmond, Saint Christopher’s School or the Jewish Community Federation.