By Jim Freer
Kent Stirling, a former president and former executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, died on Tuesday Sept. 5.
Mr. Stirling was 72. In published reports, the cause of death was listed as a recurrence of cancer. Gulfstream Park is scheduling a memorial ceremony.
Mr. Stirling was president of the Florida HBPA for several years in the early 1990s, when he was a trainer.
In 1995, he became the Florida HBPA’s first executive director and held that position through 2015.
The Florida HBPA represents trainers and owners who race horses at South Florida tracks in their dealings with those tracks,
AS executive director of the Florida HBPA, Mr. Stirling coordinated its daily activities.
He also played a lead role in negotiating purse contracts and other agreements with Gulfstream, Calder Race Couse and Hialeah Park.
Mr. Stirling was a nationally recognized expert on medication issues for horses. For several years, he was chairman of a National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association committee on medication issues.
The Equibase data base shows that he was a trainer from 1976 to 1995, mostly in Florida. He had 189 winners in 2.093 starts. His biggest wins were by Nijinsky’s Secret. That horse won the Hialeah Park Turf Handicap (Grade 1) in 1983 and 1984.
Kent Stirling is at the top of any list of people who have helped me learn about the business side of thoroughbred racing and of people in racing who have always been kind to and considerate of me.
I spoke with Kent several times prior to 2008. That year, I became a correspondent for BloodHorse and for the Miami Herald.
In phone calls and in interviews at his office, Kent helped me learn the intricacies of such issues as purse contracts, Advance Deposit Wagering and the splits of takeout from handle.
I last spoke with Kent a little more than a year ago for background on a story.
He said he was “doing OK.” I did not prod him on what was known as a courageous battle against cancer.
You were a trusted friend from the start, Kent.
May your spirit rest in peace.