W.Va. track legend dies

July 27, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Robert R. "Bobby" Hilton, a horse owner and trainer with more than 2,500 career wins at Charles Town Races, died Sunday. He was 66.

"He was a great man all-around. A great guy," said Bill Bork Jr., marketing director at Charles Town Races. "He was an excellent horseman and trainer."

Hilton, of Charles Town, was a thoroughbred racehorse owner and trainer for 45 years.

"He'll be deeply missed," Bork said.

Hilton was presented with a plaque in March in honor of his 2,500th career win at Charles Town Races.

"I don't consider myself a legend, but I think it's safe to say that I've won more races at Charles Town than anybody else," Hilton said afterward.

Retired jockey Phil Grove, 51, of Frederick, Md., started riding for Hilton in 1967.

"Bobby put me on a lot of winners," said Grove, now a paddock judge at Charles Town Races. "We were great friends and he put a lot of trust in me."


Grove said that an older generation representing a different time in horse-racing history is dying off.

"In the last year, we've lost quite a number of our old horse trainers. It's coming to the end of an era," Grove said. "I was in those glory days of racing and it's harder seeing those gentlemen passing away."

Hilton was a member and former president of the Charles Town Division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

His daughter, Ellen Walters, said she grew up at the racetrack, watching her father train his horses.

Walters said he was "first and foremost a horseman," but he took time to watch his favorite football team, the Washington Redskins.

"We'd watch football games together," she said.

Walters, an only child, also married a horse trainer, David Walters.

"So David was like the son he never had," Walters said.

Walters said her father did not have a secret to winning, he just worked hard at it.

"We never took a vacation," she said. "He was just a horseman everybody respected. If he had a horse in the race, he had the horse to beat. He had a lot of close friends at the racetrack. I think everybody is really going to miss him."

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