ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 5, 2020)–An iconic figure at Golden Gate Fields for five decades, trainer Bob Hess, Sr. succumbed to the effects of COVID-19 early Saturday morning at age 86. Consistently among the leaders in Northern California dating back to the 1970s, Hess, who was the father of trainer Bob Hess, Jr., began his training career at Agua Caliente in the 1960s, came to Golden Gate in 1971 and was a highly respected conditioner throughout his career.
Initially hospitalized in mid-November with COVID-19 following a test administered by track officials, Hess was subsequently released and then re-admitted when symptoms returned. This heartbreaking news comes just one day after Golden Gate officials announced the continued suspension of live racing through Dec. 25.
“Our hearts and prayers are with the entire Hess family at this time,” said David Duggan, General Manager at Golden Gate Fields. “To lose a longtime trainer and friend is simply heartbreaking to our entire horse racing family.”
Hess, who was born Oct. 10, 1934, was fluent in both Spanish and English. He leaves his wife of 56 years, Maria, and four children, Bob Jr., Howie, Erica and Anna.
When advised Hess had passed away this morning, jockey Abel Cedillo was moved to tears.
“When I was riding up north, he was like a second father to me,” said Cedillo, a Guatemalan native who was the leading rider at Del Mar’s recently concluded Bing Crosby Meeting. “I had so much respect for him. I’m shocked. I’m going to really miss him.”
Golden Gate Fields’ Director of Racing, Patrick Mackey, echoed the sentiments of many in the California racing industry.
“Bob was a wonderful horseman who was always there for his fellow race tracker,” he said. “His stories were legendary. He was a wealth of knowledge and imparted that knowledge to many over the years. He was a great man and his presence here at Golden Gate Fields will be sorely missed.”
Over a distinguished career that saw him saddle 1,592 winners from 10,448 starters, Hess’s runners earned more than $17.2 million. His last winner came on Oct. 29 at Golden Gate with the Thoroughbred Just Like Fred and his final starter ran there on Nov. 8.
Services for Bob Hess, Sr. are pending.