New York breeding, racing communities mourn the passing of David Cassidy

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

David Cassidy leads Sweet Vendetta into winner’s circle. Courtesy Horsephotos

By Sarah Mace

New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. (NYTB) joins America in mourning the passing of David Cassidy, who died Tuesday, November 21 at age 67 in a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he had been admitted earlier with organ failure.

Cassidy is most widely known as the heartthrob of virtually every young girl with a pulse (including this writer), when he starred as Keith Partridge in the early 70s hit television show The Partridge Family. The performer was active in the entertainment industry throughout his career, but in New York thoroughbred circles Cassidy was best known and loved as a passionate breeder and owner, an avid student of pedigree, and a generous ambassador for breeding and racing in New York.

The personal recollections from breeders and horsemen in the articles cited below supply a wealth of detail about Cassidy’s passion for racing, which dates back to childhood trips to the racetrack with the grandfather who brought him up, and his first yearling purchase in 1974 during the Partridge Family years.

Fast-forward to Cassidy’s keynote speech at the 2005 National Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “It’s one of the highlights of my entire adult life and career to be asked to speak at the induction ceremony and articulate my passion for racing,” Cassidy said. “To say I’m flattered would be a gross understatement.”

Comments from many, including New York-based trainer Gary Contessa, who became a close friend, bear this out. Contessa told Perry Lefko (see below), “Everybody has had that big celebrity owner, but none of them were students of the game like David Cassidy. I guarantee you if he had the opportunity to trade places with me and train horses, he would have given up music to be a horse trainer. He just loved [the sport]. He is just one of those really amazing guys who dedicated so much of his day and his life to racing.”

Ann M. Eberhardt

The best-known products of Cassidy’s small, but select broodmare band are In Neon, 1992 Broodmare of the Year (dam of Sharp Cat and Royal Anthem), and Sweet Vendetta, winner of the 2008 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes whom Contessa trained.

On the subject of breeding, Cassidy observed in an earlier interview with Lefko, “You need to have to some luck in life, particularly in this game. It’s not a game for boys in short pants. If you have six mares, the chances of you having broodmare of the year are a little more than 50,000-1. I’ve been a passionate fan in thoroughbred racing since I was five years old, and I’ve spent countless days, weeks, hours, months and years doing a lot of pedigree research, which is what I love to do. I don’t have a lot of mares. I have a pretty small broodmare band, but they’re high quality. It’s been a love affair that I’ve had with horses and channeled my whole life.”

Cassidy made generous donations to annual Thoroughbred Retirement Fund fundraising auctions and the annual fundraiser for Chatham Hospital, operated by business partner and friend Dr. Jerry Bilinski.

Closer to home, Cassidy is remembered by Joe Spadaro, former deputy executive director for the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund (the Fund), for his role in an early Fund advertising campaign. “David was first person to say, “Get with the Program – New York-breds!” Spadaro recalls, “We sent a car to pick him up in Manhattan and drive out to Belmont Park where he read script for a New York-bred program video ad. He did it as a ‘comp’ because he loved the industry.”

Horsephotos 2004

Upon Cassidy’s death, his publicist JoAnn Geffen released the following statement on behalf of the family: “David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long. Thank you for the abundance and support you have shown him these many years.” Cassidy had long struggled with substance abuse and, sadly, revealed earlier this year that he also had dementia, which had claimed his mother’s life.

Supplementing the November 21 New York Times obituary of Cassidy, are a group of wonderful remembrances (links included) about Cassidy’s love for and deep commitment to our sport:

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