Longtime California trainer Melvin Stute passed away Wednesday in Del Mar, CA. He had just turned 93. Born in Indiana before moving westward with his family as a child, Stute was the brother of fellow California fixture Warren Stute–who died in 2007–and the father of active trainer Gary Stute.
“He was like no other person I ever met,” said Gary Stute. “He saw the good in everyone. He woke up every day thinking he was going to win, cashing a bet or winning a race. He loved life and he loved racing, everything about it.
“With him and Warren, their whole lives were racing. My dad came to the races, he gambled and he had fun. He took people to dinner after the races and if he had money in his pocket, he’d give it away to any racetracker that needed it.
“I don’t think he ever said ‘No’ to a gambler if he had 20 [dollars] on him. He loved life and he loved to party. He turned 93 on Saturday, but we had a party for him on Thursday and he really enjoyed it. My sisters were here and we were so glad we were able to get everyone together. He fell here at home a week ago Sunday and broke his knee, but he hit the Pick Six that same day at Saratoga. We kept him here at the house, but he was in bad shape, so we had his party a couple days early.”
Mel Stute’s career reached a peak in the mid-80s. He conditioned Snow Chief (Reflected Glory) to victories in the GI Santa Anita Derby and GI Preakness S. in 1986 and Brave Raj (Rajab) to a GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies score that same year. Both won championship honors in their respective categories that season, and his trainees racked up more than $4.8 million overall.
Stute added another Breeders’ Cup trophy the following term when Very Subtle (Hoist the Silver)–also a Grade I winner as a juvenile filly in 1986–bested older males in the GI Sprint.
Also known for being an active horseplayer, Stute saddled his first winner at Portland Meadows in 1947 and final winner in 2010. His last starter came the following year. From 15,808 recorded (but incomplete) career starts, his runners amassed $55,653,244 in earnings. Stute was inducted into the Fairplex Park Hall of Fame in 2003 and received the Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award in 2006. He won 12 training titles at California tracks and was the winningest trainer in Fairplex history.
In addition to son Gary, Stute is survived by his wife Annabelle, daughters Jena and Gail and six grandchildren. Services are undetermined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today is a sad day for horse racing. The passing of Mel Stute is a hard one for Spendthrift – he has been a longtime, close friend to us and especially B. Wayne Hughes. Our sincerest condolences to all close to him.
— Spendthrift Farm (@spendthriftfarm) August 12, 2020
Very sad day for all. Mel is an absolute legend and the fact that he’s not in the Racing Hall of Fame is crime. RIP Melvin. Say hi to Gramps for me when you get there. #Tellyspop https://t.co/A6GDF7ntw3 pic.twitter.com/IvmbfXDsSN
— Billy Koch (@bklrf) August 12, 2020