Attorney and Author Toby Dies at 73

Milt Toby, an award-winning author and attorney, was a longtime contributor to The Horse.
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Milt Toby
Photo: Bill Straus

Milton C. Toby, an award-winning author and attorney, died July 24 at his home in Georgetown, Kentucky, following a courageous battle with cancer. Friends and colleagues remember Toby as a Renaissance man who embraced life and never did anything halfway. Tall, lanky, and a bit Lincolnesque in appearance, his wit was dry, his humor quick, his passions intense. Toby’s interests were many, some profound, some whimsical, ranging from Star Wars, golf, Jack the Ripper, and Fiona the hippo, to travel, law, publishing, criminal justice, animals, and mysteries. Above all he loved to write—most notably about Thoroughbred racing, to the everlasting benefit of the sport.

Toby was born on Oct. 26, 1949, to William and Laura Susan Toby of Campbellsville, Kentucky. Although raised around American Saddlebreds, Thoroughbreds became his passion. Days after graduating at 22 from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Animal Science, he accepted a sports writing job at the Aiken Standard in South Carolina. His first assignment involved the Belmont Stakes, and he was hooked.

A year later Toby was hired at The Blood-Horse magazine back in his home state, just before Secretariat’s historic 1973 Triple Crown bid. The ’70s represented a golden era for racing, and Toby was there to witness it, photograph it, and write about it. For 12 years he honed his journalistic skills, and toward the end of his Blood-Horse tenure he trekked west to supervise photography for the Olympic Games’ equestrian events in Los Angeles.

In 1986 Toby launched a freelance career that would take him around the globe and into situations not for the weak of heart. As a photojournalist, he worked while living abroad in China, Costa Rica, Colombia—writing for, among other publications, the famous (some might say, infamous) Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Returning stateside, Toby met and married Roberta Dwyer, DVM, and by his mid-40s was looking for more worlds to conquer. He chose the legal profession, graduating in 1995 from the University of Kentucky School of Law, in Lexington. His subsequent practice would be wide-ranging and successful, encompassing equine law to death penalty litigation.

Beginning in 2003 Toby took his talents to the classroom, teaching at several Kentucky colleges and universities, and for a time chaired the Central Kentucky Bar Association’s equine law division. During these years he also served as President of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, advocating on behalf of freelance writers, and sat on the board of the American Horse Publications (AHP).

His insatiably curious mind eventually drew him back to racing. He loved nothing more than an unsolved mystery he could sink his journalistic chops into and was especially intrigued by the juicy cold cases served up by the Sport of Kings. This is where he shined brightest. In 2011 Toby was honored with the industry’s most lucrative literary prize, the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, for Dancer’s Image, The Forgotten Story of the 1968 Kentucky Derby, a meticulously researched tale of racing’s most famous doping scandal. Subsequent honors would include a 2018 Book of the Year nod from AHP for Taking Shergar, about the kidnapping of the 1981 Epsom Derby winner. Toby’s awards through the years were many, but the real winners were his readers.

By 2023 Toby had written hundreds of articles (including 125 cover stories for The Blood-Horse) and authored nine books. In his early 70s his skills remained in full bloom, and he continued to push himself. A month before passing, he delivered a one-hour Zoom lecture about copyright before an AHP conference. As always, Toby chose to blaze his own path throughout his life—as a lawyer, professor, photographer, world traveler, public speaker, blogger and, ultimately, as one of the best investigative reporters horse racing has known.

Toby was also a longtime contributor to and friend of The Horse/TheHorse.com. He wrote many articles surrounding legal matters, recordkeeping, and drug regulations in the horse industry and authored the Horses & The Law blog for three years, where he sought to make complicated legal issues that affect the horse industry understandable. Toby most recently served as an expert adviser to the editorial team.

Next month the University Press of Kentucky will publish Toby’s 10th book—Unnatural Ability, The History of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Racing. It is fitting that this posthumous volume comes at the end of a remarkable half-century career, as Unnatural Ability will stand as his magnus opus, a work of extraordinary breadth, insight, and importance to the industry he so loved.

Dwyer, Echo the Doberman, and Winston the surveillance cat were by Toby’s side as he passed. He is also survived by extended family and the many friends who loved him.

No service or visitation is scheduled, although a gathering of remembrance may be announced later. Donations in his name can be made to Bluegrass Care Navigators, in Lexington.

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The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care is an equine publication providing the latest news and information on the health, care, welfare, and management of all equids.

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