Frank Vessels dies at 58; prominent Southern California racehorse breeder

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Matthew Kruk

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Aug 13, 2010, 12:28:16 AM8/13/10
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Frank Vessels dies at 58; prominent Southern California racehorse
breeder
The grandson of the founder of Los Alamitos Race Course is killed along
with a passenger in a private plane crash in southeastern Oregon.
By Claire Noland, Los Angeles Times
August 13, 2010

Frank "Scoop" Vessels, a prominent Southern California breeder of
racehorses and the grandson of the founder of Los Alamitos Race Course,
died Wednesday in a twin-engine plane crash in southeastern Oregon. He
was 58.

The plane, an Aero Commander Model 500-B, broke up in the air and was
destroyed after crashing about 80 miles south of Burns, Ore., witnesses
told authorities.

Vessels was flying the plane, which was bound from Redding, Calif., to
Montana, Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup told the Associated Press on
Thursday.

A passenger, Sam Cannell, 73, of Anderson, Calif., also was killed. The
National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation
Administration are investigating the crash.

Vessels was the owner of Vessels Stallion Farm, his family's commercial
breeding operation in Bonsall in northern San Diego County. He was a
past president of the American Quarter Horse Assn. and the California
Thoroughbred Breeders Assn. and a member of the quarter horse group's
hall of fame.

The family business began in 1951, when Frank Vessels Sr. founded Los
Alamitos Race Course on his sprawling ranch in Cypress, where he bred
quarter horses in addition to racing them.

His grandson, Frank Vessels III, was born a year later and as a youth
became a farm hand in the stock yards at the track.

"They gave me a shovel and told me to go to work," Scoop Vessels told
The Times in 1997. "The nickname stuck."

Vessels' mother, Millie, managed the track for many years. After she
sold the track to Hollywood Park for $58 million in 1984, the Vessels
family moved its base to Bonsall. Vessels took over the business when
his mother died in 1992.

Since the early '80s, Vessels had been in Bonsall running the San Luis
Rey Downs Training Center for thoroughbreds as well as a golf course.
The Vessels Stallion Farm today is a premier breeding enterprise
boasting such outstanding sires as First Down Dash, which won the
quarter horse world championship in 1987, and the leading thoroughbred
In Excess.

Before taking over the family's horse breeding enterprise, Vessels
excelled in a different form of racing - off-road trucks. He competed in
the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 desert races among others, was voted the
sport's rookie of the year in 1974 and in the late '70s won a string of
off-road class championships.

Vessels also was among a small group of Southern California truck
driver-owners who persuaded NASCAR to add a truck division to its
stock-car racing series.

He is survived by his wife of 18 years, Bonnie; and three sons, Bryan,
Colt and Kash.

claire...@latimes.com

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times


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