GREENFIELD, Ind. - Dale Baird, 72, the winningest thoroughbred trainer with more than 9,400 victories, died Sunday in a crash along an icy highway when he lost control of his pickup truck while hauling a livestock trailer.
He was killed in the accident on Interstate 70 along with two teenagers whose car broadsided the truck about 20 miles east of Indianapolis. James Pardo, 19, of Centerville, and Jared Graham, 18, of Hagerstown, were returning from the Indianapolis Colts-Houston Texans game.
Hancock County police say strong winds and a slick road most likely contributed to the crash, which happened after Baird's truck crossed a median and slid into oncoming traffic. Baird was heading to Martinsville, Ill., to spend Christmas with his mother and family, his ex-wife, Diane, said Tuesday. He then planned to go to Chicago for a paddock sale.
"He was driven; this was his passion," she said. "He loved the horse racing, the trading, the selling, the training, the going to different sales and buying. He didn't want to do anything more than that."
Baird trained in West Virginia since the 1960s.
"He set the standard for the industry," said Tamara Pettit, a spokeswoman for the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W.Va. "He was a very humble, down-to-earth person who was above all things ... an absolute gentleman."
Baird was born in Martinsville and lived in Newell, W.Va. In his early years, he was dubbed the Wizard of Waterford when the track was known as Waterford. He was granted a Special Eclipse Award from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in 2004.
"They always called him a big fish in a small pond because he hardly raced anywhere else," Diane Baird said.