Frank O’Mara passes away at age 84
January 4, 2017
Gerald Francis O’Mara, known for seven decades around the harness racing world as “Frank,” passed away Wednesday, Jan. 4. The 84-year-old O’Mara, succumbed to pneumonia in Florida after suffering from ill health for several months.
Mr. O’Mara is probably best known for developing and campaigning the great Mystic Park, winner of the American Trotting Championship, The Dexter Cup and the Yonkers Trot.
He also campaigned the fast performer Keystone Accent, Timely’s Best Man, a winner of over $700,000, and the very fast—but erratic at times—General’s Skipper.
Timely’s Best Man was driven on many occasions by Mr. O’Mara’s son, Mark, who also campaigned the great Jate Lobell. Yet another son, Dan, sat back of Babe Kosmos, voted Aged Trotting Mare of the Year in 1984.
Born July 25, 1932 in Detroit, Mich., Mr. O’Mara was an honor student and an “11-letter man” in high school, earning a scholastic scholarship to Michigan State University.
As fate would have it, Mr. O’Mara wound up back on the family farm when his father became temporarily blind.
He drove his first race in 1951 and won his first race at the Hale, Mich. fair in 1952.
After “piling up” four wins during the 1952-1953 seasons, in 1954, Mr. O’Mara left the farm and went to work on an ore carrier in the Great Lakes—that is until a storm did some quick readjustment of his career strategy and it was back to the track for the 1955 season to, earnestly, begin his grand career.
Among his early successes were winning the M & M Trot with Top Pro, 15 straight wins with Kindly Rodney and 16 consecutive victories with Danny Lite.
In 1959, Mr. O’Mara thought it was time for Danny Lite to graduate from the fairs to the “big time” and he brought the horse to Hazel Park to enter the Beaubien Stake.
At that point in their careers, both horse and driver were unknown quantities so, before the Danny Lite entry would be accepted, certified funds had to be put up.
Off at 40-1, Mr. O’Mara bided his time as there was a fierce battle going on up front and, at the end of the 2:02 mile, he and Danny Lite were no longer unknown.
He drove the last of his 1,859 lifetime victories on July 29, 2014, four days after his 82nd birthday.
Surviving members of the O’Mara family include his wife, Cheryl, sons Mark (Martha), Dan (Kristi), Sean, Joshua, and daughters Dawn, Crystal and Michelle.
A memorial ceremony is to be announced in the near future.