Robert Knox, 85, of Homewood, IL, passed away this morning. Mr. Knox, a Chalmers, Ind.,native, was a well-known figure on the Illinois and Indiana harness racing scene, having served as a starter and trackman at various Chicago raceways, in addition to being an accomplished trainer-driver in the 1970s and 1980s in Illinois.
Mr. Knox became involved in harness racing through Gene Sears (grandfather of top driver Brian Sears), working alongside George Sholty, in Logansport, IN. Mr. Knox's wife Priscilla (deceased) had gone to school with Sholty and Mr. Knox became friends with George through his wife. After a stint in the Army, stationed in Panama in World War II, Mr. Knox went to work for Gene Sears, training on the East Coast for a number of years, before eventually returning to Indiana where he competed on the fair circuit.
"Dad had bought a little trotter named Star's Lulu for about $1,000 and then raced her at the Indiana fairs and later sold her for $20,000 and that really got him started in the business,” Mr. Knox's son, Phil Knox, recalled. "Dad was also one of the reasons that the single shaft sulky was banned in 1974. One night at Washington Park, Joe Marsh Jr. was driving a horse with the single shaft and got into an accident and wasn't able to drive the rest of the card. He asked Dad to drive Star Board Butler for him in the Invitational, also hooked to the single shaft, and Dad got in a wreck too. Both of them getting hurt that way was a big reason that single shaft bike got banned.”
During his years as a driver-trainer, Mr. Knox piloted some of Illinois' top pacers, including Egyptian Silver, p, 3, 1:55.1 ($171,372), and Egyptian Luck p, 6, 1:57.2f ($172,765)--both sons of Illinois pacing sire Egyptian Dancer--as well as Jimmy Sunshine p, 3, 1:58 ($54,145) and Wavy Star p, 3, 2:00f ($153,192).
In 1974 Mr. Knox piloted longshot Ocean Reef to capture the Suburban Downs Pacing Derby at Hawthorne Race Course, returning $177 on a $2 ticket. He also won the Illinois State Championship at Springfield twice, once with Jimmy Sunshine in 1976 and again with Egyptian Silver was 1982. His lifetime driving records shows him having steered 821 winners of $2, 932,663 in earnings from 1977 through 1985.
Mr. Knox was the track superintendent/trackman at Balmoral Park for both the harness and thoroughbred meetings from 1986 through 1989, and then became the starter in the 1990s for Balmoral and Sportsman's Park. He continued in his position at Balmoral through 2006, before retiring from harness racing. In his spare time he enjoyed watching the races at home.
Mr. Knox is also the father of Chicago trainer Phil Knox and daughter Vicky Owens. He was predeceased by his son Dan, also a Chicago horseman.
Service information for Mr. Knox is pending.--By Kimberly Rinker