Horseman Eddie Wheeler, who won the 1961 Kentucky Futurity with Duke Rodney, trained Big John, and drove such greats as Cardigan Bay, Meadow Skipper, Sprite Rodney and Steady Star, died at his home in New York early Tuesday morning at age 76.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Wheeler headed west at the age of 12 with a plan of becoming a jockey. Instead he met Hall of Famer Jimmy Cruise and learned horsemanship skills that he honed into a career of training and driving top stakes colts and fillies. His skill in the sulky was such that he was often asked to catch-drive in the days before catch-driving became the norm.
A terrible racing accident left Wheeler with a broken back in two places and ended his career in the sulky. He retired to the Saratoga Springs, NY, area and until the past year or so journeyed to Lexington for the fall Grand Circuit meet.
His is survived by Suzanne; son Tim; daughters Deb and Kimberly; step-daughters Tomalyn and Denise; and several grandchildren.
Wheeler did not want a formal funeral service, so his family hopes to have a memorial during the fall Grand Circuit meet in Lexington, where for many years he trained and raced horses.
Memorial donations may be made to Standardbred Retirement Foundation, 108F Old York Rd., Hamilton, NJ 08620