Arizona training center owner McKee dies at 90

Robert “Bob” Harley McKee, entrepreneur and owner of a training center in Arizona, died earlier this year at his home in Phoenix. He was 90 years old.

McKee was born and raised in Hamilton, Missouri, in the house behind a gas station owned and operated by his grandfather. He graduated from William Jewell College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and eventually moved to Arizona in 1969, where he developed one of the largest independent chains of self-service gas stations in the Southwest.

According to his family, he then diversified into banking, buying Ralston Bank in Nebraska, which he sold to Norwest Bank which later became Wells Fargo Bank. In 1988, he founded the Torrey Pines Club Board of Directors after successfully acquiring the lease of the 36-hole Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course from the City of San Diego. He served as chairman of the board of directors until his death.

McKee became involved in thoroughbred racing in the 1970s. Alone or with his 44-year-old wife, Mary Ellen, McKee raced several stake performers, including Keep On Top, which won the Molly Butler Handicap at Lawn paradise in 1988 and the Las Palmas Stakes from 1989 to Los Alamitos Racetrack; and Blacktie Bid, which won the Black Swan Stakes at Fairplex Park in 1995. They also ran the Nice Choice Turf Stakes winner, which won the 2005 Dwight D. Patterson Handicap at Lawn paradise. Society Max’s son was purchased for $29,000 at the Triple AAA Ranch’s 2001 Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Fall Mixed Sale.

Their stable – sometimes listed under their own name and sometimes as Double Kee – also included several black horses, including Biltmore Breeze (out of Keep On Top), which D. Wayne Lukas trained for them to finish third in the Hollywood 1997. Handicap Wildcat at Hollywood Park.

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In 1999, the McKees established Hidden Springs Ranch, a 222-acre stripping, training, and boarding facility in Peeples Valley, Arizona. The training center included a five-stadium track and swimming facilities to manage immobilization and rehabilitation.

McKee was an avid handicapper and enjoyed following a day at Del Mar with a good game of poker.

McKee was predeceased by his parents: Robert Doak and Helen Williams McKee; two grandsons; the mother of his children, Peggy Kelly; and his brother-in-law Richard Poulsen.

He is survived by his wife; two daughters: Sherri McKee, her children Linden and Allen Foster, and Marlowe (Kim) Quart, and Kathleen McKee (Michael) Johnson, and her children Dustin (Christina) Johnson, Luke Johnson and Chelsea Johnson (Brian) Roberts; son Robert Thomas “Tom” (Tracey) McKee and their sons Harley and Matthew; two great-granddaughters Colette and Chloe Johnson; four brothers-in-law James (Davey) Campbell, Calvin, Craig and Terry (Jean) Poulsen; sister-in-law Gail Poulsen; and nine nieces and nephews.

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