Owner and breeder James Tafel, who campaigned such standouts as champions Banshee Breeze and 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, died Wednesday in his home at the Village of Golf, Florida. Tafel was 90.
Born in Pittsburgh on January 20, 1924, Tafel spent 30 years with Technical Publishing Company starting in Sales in 1953, and retiring as President and CEO in 1983. Shortly after retiring, Tafel joined some ownership partnerships, including a Dogwood Stable venture that owned Nassipour, winner of the 1985 Rothmans International. Tafel’s first champion runner came when he co-owned 1998 champion 3-year-old filly Banshee Breeze with Jayeff B Stables.
One of the more emotional moments for Tafel came when his colt Street Sense captured the 2007 Kentucky Derby under Calvin Borel, becoming the first and only horse to date to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the first leg of the Triple Crown. Street Sense was conditioned by Carl Nafzger, whom Tafel counted as his primary trainer for nearly 30 years.
“A good man, great for racing and very loyal,” trainer Ian Wilkes, a former assistant under Nafzger, said of Tafel. “How often do you seen an owner stay with a trainer that long. I think he had been with Carl for close to 30 years. (The Derby win) meant a lot. To do that meant a lot to Carl as well. To win it for Mr. Tafel, that was just a defining moment for both of them.”
Other top horses campaigned by Tafel included stakes winners Coolawin, Vicar, Til Forbid, Metfield and Binalong.
Tafel graduated fom the University of Pittsburgh in 1950 following World War II, he actively supported the Pitt Business School and served on its Board of Visitors for many years. During World War II he was a decorated flyer with the Eighth Air Force, flying out of England.
He is survived by his wife and partner, Ida May; a daughter, Julie Tafel Klaus, of Rancho Santa Fe, California, and a son, James B. Tafel, Jr., of Alpharetta, Georgia, and three granddaughters, Victoria Anne Tafel of Atlanta, Georgia, and Haley Klaus and Cameron Klaus of Rancho Santa Fe, California.
Contributions may be made to your favorite charity in lieu of flowers.