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Jimmy Dunnigan Jr. dies in Phoenix at 79

September 01, 2016

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James J. "Jimmy" Dunnigan Jr., a racing executive and the son and grandson of two men who were instrumental in New York harness racing, died Aug. 25 in Phoenix, Ariz., after several years of poor health. He was 79.

Mr. Dunnigan was the son of Hall of Famer James Dunnigan Sr., who founded Buffalo Raceway and managed that track for 25 years, until he built Phoenix Trotting Park and that track failed and forced the sale of both track licenses to the Buffalo company Sportservice. Mr. Dunnigan's grandfather, John, authored the 1939 legislation that permitted pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing in New York.

Jimmy Dunnigan Jr. was a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and in 1959, even before he graduated, he was named racing secretary at Monticello Raceway. In 1965, Mr. Dunnigan moved with the family to Phoenix to work at Phoenix Trotting Park, where he served as director of racing. The Phoenix track closed after just two seasons and in 1968 Mr. Dunnigan returned to New York to serve as race secretary at Roosevelt Raceway.

In addition to working in the race office, Mr. Dunnigan also had horsemanship skills. In September 1967 he drove his homebred Lois Girl, a 3-year-old pacing filly, to victory in a New Sires Stakes at Batavia Downs. In 1980 he was named sales director at the resurrected Old Glory Sales. In later years he worked as a yearling scout for George Steinbrenner.

Mr. Dunnigan is survived by one brother, Eddie, and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his two other brothers, Richard and Jack, and his parents.

A graveside service is scheduled to be held on Sept. 2 at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery in Phoenix.

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