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Legend Walter Merrick dies

February 6, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

American Quarter Horse Legend Walter Merrick
courtesy of

American Quarter Horse Legend Walter Merrick died on February 4. He was 94.

Services will be held Tuesday, February 7, at 2 p.m. (CST) at the Cheyenne High School Auditorium in Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Until then, Merrick can be viewed at Rose Chapel Funeral Home in Sayre, Oklahoma.

"I met Walter many times," said Ed Allred, owner of Los Alamitos Race Course. "He came out to Los Alamitos for a book signing and it was great to see him here. I would often see him at Ruidoso Downs. He would eat at this old Mexican restaurant in Downtown Ruidoso. I talked to him there many times. Walter was a great horsemen."

Inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 1993, Merrick got his start working as a teenager on a ranch in Colorado. In 1928, he headed to Oklahoma, and while working at a ranch there met and married wife Onna Christian "Tien". While working at the Figure Two Ranch, he received 14 cattle as payment for wages, which lended the name to his 14 Ranch, an operation which eventually spanned four states and included thousands of cattle.

In 1936, he purchased Midnight Jr, his first influential horse. In 1952, he stood Thoroughbred Three Bars in a time when many American Quarter Horse breeders were opposed to adding Thoroughbred blood, and he bred horses such as AAA runner Bob's Folly. He also stood at his ranch such influential stallions as Tonto Bars Hank, Grey Badger II and Jet Smooth.

Horses bred by Merrick included Hall of Famers Easy Jet, Jet Deck and Easy Date, and champions Byou Bird and Toast The Host. Easy Jet became one of Quarter Horse racing's most influential horses -- a 1967 foal by Jet Deck, he won 27 of 38 races, 12 stakes, and earned $445,723. From 24 crops, Easy Jet sired 145 stakes winners, nine champions, and the earners of $26,237,832, a record that stood until it was broken by Dash For Cash.
A 60-consecutive-year breeder, Merrick in his own name bred 573 starters, 41 stakes winners and the earners of more than $6.4 million.

Merrick's wife, Tien, died in December. He was also preceeded in death by son Jimmie Wayne and grandson Kash. He is survived by two daughters, one son, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, 15 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and four great great grandchildren. He was also the great uncle of Scott Willoughby, one of the leading trainers at Los Alamitos Race Course.