Composer, Songwriter And Horse Owner Burt Bacharach Passes Away At 94

Burt Bacharach, a famed music composer and songwriter and a Grade I winning horse owner, passed away Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 94.

The Associated Press reported that he died of natural causes.

When not in a music studio, Bacharach could often be found at the racetrack, enjoying a sport he called “exhilarating.”

According to a 1994 feature in the Los Angeles Times, Bacharach, who was born in Kansas City, became a racing fan while growing up in Queens. He said he would make “mind bets” on that day’s card at the New York tracks.

“I was hooked,” he told Times columnist Jim Murray. “But I was ignorant. When I saw 114 under the jockey’s name, I thought that was the horse’s weight.”

Once he began to have success in the music industry Bacharach started to invest in horses and teamed up with legendary trainer Charlie Whittingham. His first horse was a claimer named Battle Royal. Bacharach said he was crushed when the horse was claimed from him in 1968 and told Whittingham to claim him back the next time he started.

His first big star was the mare Heartlight No. One, who was named after a song he wrote for Neil Diamond. A winner of three stakes in 1983, including the GI Hollywood Oaks and the GI Ruffian H., she was named champion 3-year-old filly in 1983. She was bred by Bacharach’s Blue Seas Music.

“We named her Heartlight No. One because we hoped the song would be number one on the charts,” Bacharach said following the Ruffian. “The song only got to number three but I guess the filly’s number one.”

Bacharach’s next “big horse” was Soul of the Matter, a horse he bred in West Virginia. Trained by Richard Mandella, Soul of the Matter won four stakes, topped by the GI Super Derby in 1994. He also won the 1994 GII San Felipe S. and the 1995 GII Goodwood H. He finished fifth in the 1994 GI Kentucky Derby, fourth in the 1995 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic and gave Cigar all he could handle when finishing second behind the Horse of the Year in the inaugural Dubai World Cup in 1996.

It was at the same time that Mandella was developing a promising colt for Bacharach named Afternoon Deelites. The winner of the 1994 GI Hollywood Futurity, Afternoon Deelites, another West Virginia bred, won his first five races before finishing second in the GI Santa Anita Derby. After finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby, he won the GI Malibu S.

Bacharach was still active as an owner at the time of his passing, owning Duvet Day (Starspangledbanner {AUS}) in partnership with Jane and Richard Schatz. Duvet Day last started on Jan. 21 at Santa Anita for trainer Micheal McCarthy.

“Why do I race? I think it’s because most of us are in a world we have control over,” Bacharach told Murray. “We control what’s going on, whether it’s a concert, a TV series, a movie to score or a tune to be written. Then, we have something we love but can’t control. You can’t make a horse run faster than he wants to. That’s the pain of it. But it’s exhilarating for people who otherwise control their lives.

“Besides, the race crowd is different. More understated, more calm, more comfortable to be with. We’re like the $2 bettor. We deal with the disappointments, shrug off the defeats, go back to the drawing board, the Form. You know how we are. There’s always tomorrow.”

When reached Thursday, Mandella had nothing but fond memories of his time working for Bacharach.

“It is so sad to think of him gone,” Mandella said. “He was one of the most fun owners I ever had. I’ll always remember the first Dubai World Cup. Soul of the Matter came from last at the top of the stretch and went through the field and actually got his nose in front of Cigar at the eighth pole and it looked like we had it won. Cigar dug back in and beat us. After the race we had to go down some winding stairs and halfway down I looked back and he was crying like a baby. That’s how much it meant to him. He was a terrific person and we had some great times together.”

Bacharach compassed hundreds of pop song from the late 1950s through the 1980s, many of them in collaboration with Hal David. A six-time Grammy Award winner and a three-time Academy Award winner, his songs were recorded by more than 1,000 artists including Dionne Warwick, Perry Como, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, B.J. Thomas and the Carpenters.  Music writer William Farina called Bacharach “a composer whose venerable name can be linked with just about every other prominent musical artist of his era.”

Among his biggest hits were the song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” “They Long to Be Close to You,” and the theme song to the movie Arthur. In 2012, the Bacharach and David received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the first time the honor has been given to a songwriting team.

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