It's been more than five years since William T. Young passed away from an apparent heart attack on Jan. 12, 2004.
But when the word came late Tuesday afternoon that Overbrook Farm would disperse its yearlings, breeding stock and most of its horses in training at the Keeneland September sale, it was as if the Thoroughbred industry felt Young's passing all over again.
Young did a lot of things in a varied and amazing life. He manufactured the Big Top peanut butter brand that would eventually become Jif for Procter & Gamble. He built successful trucking and warehousing companies. He was chairman of the board at Transylvania University, and a trustee at the University of Kentucky, the school from which he graduated.
In this age, when entities seek and protect their fund-raising dollars, there is a William T. Young Campus Center at Transylvania and a William T. Young Library at UK.
There are countless civic causes that Young funded and supported.
But Overbrook was his baby. He established the farm off Tates Creek Road in 1972. It grew from the 110 acres Young owned in the 1960s to the 2,400-acre operation that by 1994 had earned its owner the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder.
In all, Overbrook bred 113 stakes winners, including 21 Grade I winners.
Young raced a few of those himself. In 1994, he won the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies with Flanders, and he had an interest in Juvenile winner Timber Country. In 1996, he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile again with Boston Harbor, and in 1999 he won the Breeders' Cup Classic with Cat Thief.
And he won the 1996 Kentucky Derby with Grindstone, trained by D. Wayne Lukas. Three days after Grindstone's grandson, Summer Bird, sired by Birdstone, won the Belmont, came the news that Bill Young Jr. was shutting down the Overbrook breeding operation, saying, in a press release, "I simply don't have the same passion for the Thoroughbred sport that my father did, despite my respect for the business."
Young Jr. said the economy had nothing to do with the decision. Storm Cat, the famous sire, whose breeding fee was once a record $500,000, was pensioned last year. And Young Jr. said it was a good time to move on.
Yet surely the move comes as a psychological blow to an industry whose troubles are beginning to take a toll in the Bluegrass, exemplified by Gov. Steve Beshear's push to install video lottery terminals at tracks in an effort to compete with other states.
The elder Young was for that. On his Paulick Report blog Tuesday, former Blood-Horse editor Ray Paulick remembered the time he and Young debated the slot-machine issue, with Paulick voicing a moral objection.
Young politely replied, "Who are you to tell someone what they should or shouldn't do?"
And I remember being around Lukas in 2006, a couple of months after Bob Lewis, who owned Derby winners Silver Charm and Charismatic, had died at the age of 81. Lukas trained Charismatic.
"Bob Lewis and Bill Young, those guys were sportsmen," I remember Lukas saying. "I'm not sure we have many of those left in the game anymore."
Tuesday's news was like losing Bill Young all over again.