Every morning between 8:00 and 8:30 Arnold Heft would pick up his telephone and call trainer Tim Keefe to find out how his horses were doing. But two weeks ago, the calls stopped coming and Thursday morning Keefe and other members of the Thoroughbred community began learning that Heft, 94, had died.
“He loved his horses,” Keefe said. “But the last two weeks he didn’t call me. I was calling him and I began to prepare myself. I could see and hear the decline. I knew it was coming. Arnold was a wonderful man who loved his horses, loved sports and cared about people.”
Heft died peacefully in his sleep Wednesday night at Sunrise at Fox Hill Senior Living Facility in Bethesda. A graveside service to celebrate Heft’s life will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, Mar. 14, at the Garden of Remembrance Memorial Park, 14321 Comus Rd., in Clarksburg, Md. The family will receive friends afterward at Sunrise at Fox Hill, 8300 Burdette Road, in Bethesda.
Long time Maryland horse racing fans know Heft and his wife Sylvia for the campaigns of multiple stakes winners - Pulverizing, Baldski’s Choice, He Is Risen and Red’s Round Table among them. Most recently, the Hefts experienced what Arnold called “their happiest moments” in sports through the efforts of Eighttofasttocatch, a horse he named for Washington Capitals’ all-star Alex Ovechkin and a horse that delivered two Maryland Million Classic titles (2011 and 2013) and a Maryland-based Horse of the Year Award.
“Though I owned the Bullets and the Capitals with Mr. Abe Pollin, we never really had a champion (when Heft was involved in the partnership),” Heft said in the Winner’s Circle after Eighttofasttocatch won the Classic for the first time. “This has to be the biggest thing for my wife and me. This is my first real champion – and I’m 92 years old.”
Heft,was given the Maryland Racing Media Association’s highest award - the Humphrey A. Finney Award for lifetime contributions to the Maryland horse racing industry last year -, after owning thoroughbreds for decades. But his involvement in sports goes back much farther.
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