Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tom Roach remembered as a smiling gentleman, a traditionalist and a fine Thoroughbred breeder

By Nate Courtney
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Tom Roach knew tradition.

He was the fourth generation to operate his family’s Parrish Hill Farm, co-bred a Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year, and was known as a true gentleman.

At his funeral Sept. 10 at Midway Christian Church, longtime friend and Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth summed up the man he knew in a fitting sendoff.

"The definition of a gentleman is a well mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behavior," Bozarth said. "This describes Tom."

Roach was born in Lexington on May 26, 1948, but lived in Midway for most of his adult life, working as a Thoroughbred breeder on the family farm after graduating from Duke University and attending the University of Kentucky law school.

The son of the late Ruth and Dr. Ben Roach, Tom learned his character traits from his father, who helped him breed the family’s only Derby winner, Charismatic, with Will Farish.

Virginia Glass delivered Charismatic at Parrish Hill Farm from Roach's mare, Bali Babe, and witnessed the 1999 Horse of the Year's rise to prominence.

"Charismatic raced at Keeneland and Tommy said he might run in the Derby if he won,” Glass recalled. “Coming down the stretch Charismatic was leading and Tommy was running with him to the finish line as he won."

After his victory, Glass asked Tommy if she got a raise for delivering him. "He smiled and gave me two thumbs up," Glass said.

Charismatic went on to win the Derby and the Preakness, falling just short of the Triple Crown. Roach also bred Princess Rooney, which won the first Breeders’ Cup Distaff race.

According to The Blood-Horse, Roach also bred graded stakes winners Millennium Wind, Storm Tower, Tossofthecoin, Cormorant, Lawyer Talk, Inca King and Queen of Song, and "The breeding of current millionaire and multiple grade I turf runner Get Stormy was planned by Roach for his longtime client and dear friend, Mary Sullivan. Get Stormy was born and raised at Roach’s Parrish Hill Farm until he left to be broken for racing."

Roach always used a traditional, hands-on approach with his horses. In fact, he fed them personally every night, after eating his own dinner.

"Tom would go to the barn and mix his famous concoction of who knows to his beloved race horses," Bozarth said. "It sure did stink but the horses ate it.”

There was no job too big, too small or too smelly for Roach. "He always did what needed to be done," Glass said.

Tom and his wife Robyn decided in 2008 to sell the original Parrish Hill property in Midway and move to Versailles, where they continued breeding under the Parrish Hill name. He resided at that home at the time of his death, when he lost his longtime battle against a stomach disorder.

Roach was a director of the Thoroughbred Club of America, a member of the Midway Christian Church, and a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.

He is survived by his wife Robyn, daughters Amanda Parrish and Hallie Thompson Lewis, grandson son-in-law Drew Lewis, grandson Parrish Lewis, brother Jim Roach, sisters Julia Roach and Helen Rentch, and many nieces, nephews, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.

Bozarth said at the funeral, “He was always smiling.”

That's a tradition that will live on through his legacy.


Anonymous said...

Nice tribute! His grandson is Parrish Benjamin Lewis. Drew Lewis is Roach's son-in-law.

Tom Bozarth said...

Tom was cut from the same cloth as his mother and father. The Roach family were always giving to the Midway community. Tom would do anything for you if he could. I never heard Tom say a bad word about anyone. What a wonderful trait to have and practice. I will always remember Tom as a good friend.

Al Cross said...

Sorry, that was my error in transcribing and adding some information. It's now corrected.