By Bill Finley
Bob Quigley, a highly respected retired racing executive, who was best known for his role as the head of management when the Meadowlands opened, passed away Monday at age 90.
He died of natural causes.
His death was confirmed by Richard Orbann, who was the general manager at Garden State Park while Quigley was that track's president.
“He was a beloved man,” Orbann said. “I don't know anybody he didn't like and anybody that didn't like him. In our business, where jealously prevails, that's a remarkable thing.”
Orbann said he spoke with Quigley Sunday and he seemed to be in good spirits, but he had a setback Monday and was rushed to Aventura Hospital in Aventura, FL, where he was pronounced dead.
“I spoke with him yesterday as I did most days and Bob was Bob,” Orbann said. “To be honest with you, this is a tough one. We spoke almost every day. Bob was good to me.”
Quigley was born in Atlantic City and started in racing at Atlantic City Race Course, first working there as a laborer before working his way up the ladder to became the track's executive vice president and general manager. He was lured to Meadowlands prior to the track's opening by CEO Sony Werblin and Executive Director Jack Krumpe. He started there in 1975 and was at the helm as the Meadowlands became the premier track in harness racing and an important Thoroughbred track.
“He was the best racing executive I ever worked for,” said Dave Johnson, who was hired by Quigley to call the Thoroughbred races at the Meadowlands.
Quigley spent eight years at the Meadowlands before he was hired to run the new Garden State Park, which re-opened in 1985 after a fire shuttered the track in 1977. Quigley stayed at Garden State until 1992 when he left to oversee the opening of Retama Park. In 1995, he left Retama and retired.
“Bob left and he went to Texas and what happened was he wanted me to go there with him,” Orbann recalled. “I told him I was not coming. Bob said to me, 'Richard. I hope this turns out to be the best decision of your life.' He took it so well. I had a sleepless night.”
In 2004, Quigley married Wanda Hooper, the widow of owner Fred Hooper.
Following his retirement, Quigley remained active in the sport with a small stable. His last start as an owner came Jan. 29 with High Jingo (Shackleford), who finished third in a $16,000 claimer at Gulfstream.
Quigley is survived by Hooper and son Kevin and daughters Kelly and Karen. Funeral arrangements are pending.