Longtime former Claiborne Farm manager John William Sosby died Saturday. He was 73. Mr. Sosby came to Claiborne as a child when his father worked there. His first job at the farm was cutting weeds at age 9. He became yearling manager in 1964 and general manager in 1975. He retired from the farm in 2003 after 47 years.
Claiborne president Seth Hancock said Sunday that Mr. Sosby was "the most caring, giving person I've ever known. ... He's as fine a man as ever walked the hills of Bourbon County."
Hancock said Mr. Sosby was well known for his community work, whether it was building baseball fields for Little Leaguers or driving a school bus even in retirement.
But Hancock said he doubts that Mr. Sosby ever told the schoolkids about the greats he had known. And they were the greatest of the greats.
"He was there when Secretariat was syndicated," Hancock said of the Triple Crown winner who was sent to stud for a record $6 million in 1972. And as yearling manager, Mr. Sosby helped to bring to the racing world the likes of Ruffian, Swale and Ferdinand.
"Every great horse that came off of Claiborne Farm in the last 50 years, he had a hand on," Hancock said.
Mr. Sosby was named farm manager of the year in 1984 by his peers in the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club, and he received the Ambassador of Racing award from Kentucky Thoroughbred Media in 1991.
Upon his retirement, he told The Blood-Horse, "It's been a tremendous ride. The quality of the horses — the Grade One winners, the year-end champions — and the quality of the people I've met are second to none. I consider myself a very, very lucky guy to have had the opportunity that I've had."
After leaving his post at Claiborne, Mr. Sosby was chairman of the Bourbon County Fair Board and remained a Bourbon County sports booster.
"He was a wonderful horseman and a wonderful guy," said Arthur Hancock, owner of Stone Farm. "He did a lot for the community and Paris. He was a salt-of-the-earth person."
His funeral will be 1 p.m. Wednesday at Bourbon County High School, under the direction of Hinton-Turner Funeral Home in Paris. Visitation will be 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the school.
Mr. Sosby will be buried at Evergreen Memorial Gardens.