Keeneland’s Ted Bassett: My Life

By James E. “Ted” Bassett III and Bill Mooney




It was an honor to be invited to write this foreword as it is about a man who, for as long as I have known him, has been something of a hero.

I first met Ted Bassett at an early Breeders’ Cup meeting, and we have been friends ever since. I was fortunate, a few years ago, to experience my first Kentucky Derby in the company of Lucy and Ted Bassett and a few of their oldest friends. It was on that occasion that I became aware of Ted’s breadth of acquaintanceship, for wherever we went at Churchill Downs, he was greeted with huge enthusiasm by a myriad of people from every corner of the racing industry. They were all, everyone, just as delighted to see him as he was to see them.

Considering that one of Ted’s most endearing characteristics is his innate modesty, the very existence of this book is something of a miracle. We, the readers, are the beneficiaries of this great, good fortune, as this is a book that will give enormous pleasure to many, many people, as well as insights into a wide range of national and international events over the past seventy-five years. There is much of Ted’s life that I was unaware of, and I am fascinated by every chapter in the Ted Bassett story.

And Ted has had a fascinating and unusual life – he has been successful in just about every area to which he has turned his hand and his considerable charm. In this book, we share his journeys from his early days at Kent School, thence to his beloved Yale, and on to his enlistment in the U. S. Marine Corps and his combat experience in World War II. The Marine Corps experience has played a seminal role in Ted’s life, and in his later years, he has been the recipient of the Corps’ coveted Semper Fidelis Award and the USMC Superior Public Service Award.

Following the war, Ted was a newsprint salesman based on the East Coast. He returned to Kentucky in the mid-1950s and was later appointed director of the Kentucky State Police, serving with distinction during a critical period in the state’s history that was disrupted by labor strife and divisive racial tensions.

It was then on to Keeneland in 1968, a move that became a springboard for him as Ted went on to serve the Thoroughbred industry for nearly 40 years. For it was Ted’s Keeneland experience that provided him the opportunity to take on a broad range of responsibilities, such as president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, the Breeders’ Cup, Equibase, and the World Series Racing Championship. Ted’s efforts have earned him the Eclipse Award of Merit, the Thoroughbred Club of America Honor Guest Award, the John H. Galbreath Award, and a host of other prestigious recognitions, including three honorary doctoral degrees.

Moreover, Ted has traveled to the four corners of the globe advancing the merits of Thoroughbred racing and breeding and earning the sobriquet “International Ambassador of Racing.”

Throughout this book, Ted Bassett’s uncanny ability to charm and persuade is frequently masked by his reticence and leads the reader to underestimate the pivotal and key roles he has played within the Thoroughbred industry. But do not be fooled. His is truly a remarkable story.


Stoker Devonshire
The Duke of Devonshire KVCO, CBE

“Ted Bassett has been our ambassador for Thoroughbred racing around the world, and has placed his stamp on every aspect of the sport, accomplishing this with the grip of a Marine and the air of a gentleman.”

William S. Farish

former U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Lane’s End Farm

“Ted Bassett has been a pervasive force for the good of international racing. No one has been as focused, as energetic or has his persuasive wit and charm.”

The Honorable Andrew S. Peacock

former Liberal Party Leader and Australian Ambassador to the USA

“Throughout his distinguished career as a Marine and as a private citizen, Mr. Bassett has continued to epitomize, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine.’ Mr. Bassett’s selfless patriotism and dedication reflect great credit upon him and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

James T. Conway

General, U.S. Marine Corps and Commandant of the Marine Corps

“Ted Bassett is a legend in the Kentucky State Police today for those officers who served through the 1960’s and 1970’s.”

Colonel A.D. Fortner

Kentucky State Police Commissioner, 1980-‘81

“Thoroughbred racing’s senior statesman, Ted Bassett, offers a world tour of his career highlights from Keeneland to Royal Ascot, Dubai and points beyond.”

Joe Hirsch

executive columnist, Daily Racing Form, 1974-2003

“Perhaps only in Kentucky can one move effortlessly from serving as Director of the State Police to managing one of the world’s most unique racetracks and dine with the Queen of England.”

Terry L. Birdwhistell, PHD

Associate Dean of Special Collections and Digital Programs, University of Kentucky

“In my 58 years in racing, I have never met a man who I looked up to and regarded more than Ted Bassett.”

William A. Thayer

Senior Vice President of Racing, Arlington Park

“Plan to stay at the table long after dinner with James E. ‘Ted’ Bassett III. He has had a marvelous life.”

Eugenie A. Graf

Lexington Herald Leader

“This is autobiography at its finest – superbly written, entertaining and engaging.”

Paul Sanders

Lexington Business

“As he recalls (his) colorful history, (Bassett) fills in the blanks in a career hardly duplicated by anyone in American racing.”

Stan Bergstein

Daily Racing Form

“Bassett relates his tale with charm and humility, inviting the reader along on an 88-year jaunt through a fascinating life well-lived – as a schoolboy, collegiate prankster, athlete, soldier, newsprint salesman, tobacco farmer, Kentucky State Police director, racetrack executive, and devoted husband.”

Mary Simon

Thoroughbred Times

“This book is a gold mine of first-hand stories and historic information not only about the racing industry, but about life in Kentucky.”

Paintsville Herald

“(Bassett) goes into the political, economic and social standings of the racing industry, all the way down to the people who ultimately make it possible, the fans . . . The book is well recommended.”

Carlton Jackson

Bowling Green Daily News