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W.T. Young; made fortune in peanut butter, thoroughbreds

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- William T. Young, one of thoroughbred racing's most prominent breeders and owners who won the 1996 Kentucky Derby with Grindstone, died Jan. 12 in Gulf Stream, Fla. He was 85.

Mr. Young, who operated Overbrook Farm in Lexington after building his fortune selling peanut butter, sent many of his horses to Hall of Fame trainer and longtime friend D. Wayne Lukas.

"He had a great career as an owner and breeder, probably unparalleled for the time he was in the game," Lukas said from Santa Anita in California. "He had a marvelous feel for it. We always talk about the horse business, but in many ways it's a people business, and no one was better with people than he was."

Lukas has said that "you could mail a post card to Bill Young, Kentucky, and it would probably get to him."

Mr. Young received an Eclipse Award in 1994 as the nation's top breeder, and in 1999 was chosen Breeder of the Year by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Mr. Young also owned 1996 Belmont Stakes winner Editor's Note. He was co-owner of 1994 Preakness and Belmont winner Tabasco Cat, as well as Breeders' Cup race winner Cat Thief, Flanders, and Boston Harbor.

Storm Cat, a horse Mr. Young bred, became his first stakes winner, then, eventually, one of his most profitable horses, even though the colt's career was cut short in 1986 after only eight races. Storm Cat sired Tabasco Cat and Cat Thief and became the world's most expensive stallion when his stud fee reached the $500,000 mark.

Overall, Storm Cat's progeny have won more than 1,500 races and earned nearly $80 million.

Mr. Young died almost two years to the day after his wife of 56 years, Lucy Hilton Maddox Young, on Jan. 13, 2002.

The couple married in 1945 and lived in Philadelphia until his discharge from the Army in December of that year.

They moved to Lexington, where she assisted her husband in establishing W. T. Young Foods Inc., which created Big Top Peanut Butter, in 1946. The company was sold to Proctor & Gamble in 1955, which renamed the product Jif Peanut Butter.

Mr. Young also was chairman of the Executive Cabinet during the 1979-1983 administration of Governor John Y. Brown Jr.

"He'll be missed by all who knew him, but what a legacy and imprint his life has left, especially on Lexington and the state of Kentucky," Brown said.

In 1957, Mr. Young was appointed to the board of cola maker The Royal Crown Co., which at the time owned the Arby's fast-food chain. He held the chairman's position from 1966 to 1984.

Mr. Young was one of the leading benefactors of the University of Kentucky, which named its library after him.

Material from the Los Angeles Times was used in this obituary.

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