Don Munger, Emerald Downs horse trainer and breeder, dies at 93

Don Munger, a trainer, breeder and owner of Thoroughbreds for more than seven decades and one of Washington’s most beloved racing figures, died of congestive heart failure at 93. Munger had three wins from 21 starters at Emerald Downs this season.

Don Munger, a trainer, breeder and owner of Thoroughbreds for more than seven decades and one of Washington’s most beloved racing figures, died Sunday of congestive heart failure in Enumclaw. He was 93.

A breeder whose stallions included Barbaric Spirit, Cold Steel, Kaneohe Bay and, more recently, Nacheezmo, Munger campaigned homebreds in his green-and-white silks and had at least one victory in every Emerald Downs season except 2003. In 2012, Munger won 20 races at age 88 and that was voted the Auburn track’s Top Training Achievement.

“Don Munger was a humble gentleman who made numerous contributions to Washington racing,” Emerald Downs President Phil Ziegler said Monday. “Thoroughbred racing lost an icon.”

An Auburn High School graduate, Munger was a World War II veteran and was injured in the battle of Iwo Jima. In a 2009 Seattle Times profile, Munger said he was often thanked for his service, but would remind people many of his fellow Marines paid the ultimate price.

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“I’m still alive,” Munger said. “How about the ones who died? How can we ever thank them?”

Munger still was producing on the racetrack, with three wins in 21 starts at the current meet. Until recently, he still hauled horses to Emerald Downs from his 37-acre farm in Enumclaw. For many years, he also rode the ponies that escorted his horses to the starting gate.

Munger said friends frequently asked when he would retire.

“I tell people, ‘I am retired,’ ” he said. “When you retire, you do what you want, don’t you? Well, I’m retired and I’m doing what I want.”

In 2009, he was given the Special Recognition Award from two…

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