Cover photo for Michael Allan Gass's Obituary
Michael Allan Gass Profile Photo
1944 Michael 2024

Michael Allan Gass

October 28, 1944 — June 9, 2024

Jones, OK

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Michael Alan Gass (Papa Duck), beloved husband, father, grandfather, and friend, who left us on June 9, 2024, at the age of 79. 

Michael Allan O’Grady was born on October 28, 1944, in Superior, NE to Doris (Salyard) and Patrick O’Grady. When he was 6 years old he was adopted by his stepfather, Rollo Gass, when Doris remarried. 

He displayed an early love for sports and horses and never outgrew it. His mother recounted stories of “Ha E (horsey) Go!” coming from his bedroom as he raced marbles across the floor. He trained Shetland ponies to be ridden from the time he was 13. He competed in basketball, football, and track through high school, but a knee injury prevented college sports and the draft to Vietnam. He graduated from Edgar High School in 1963. 

On December 12, 1965, Mike married Diana Lynn Marshall in Concordia, KS. The young couple started farming south of Edgar, Ne. 

The love of horses took Mike away from the farm to Thoroughbred Racing. He learned the trade while working for T.V. Smith, Jack Van Berg, and others before he started training his own stable full-time in the early 1970s. Mike primarily trained on the Nebraska circuit at Fonner Park, Lincoln Race Course, Aksarben, Columbus, and Atokad, but would often travel to other locations in the winter including Sportsman’s Park, Hawthorn, Fair Grounds, Calder, Hialeah, and Gulfstream. Many of the early win pictures from Nebraska can be found on the Durham Museum website thanks to Bob Dunn - https://durhammuseum.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16453coll2/search/searchterm/Gas s. One of the Nebraska circuit favorites was Sneaky Jack, who eventually moved to Oklahoma with the Gass family. 

In 1980 Mike’s career turned to a different type of stable. He moved to Oklahoma to join the O’Grady family business of boxing at Starmaker and Empire Promotions. He was instrumental in the boxing careers from training to promotion of his brother, Sean O’Grady, Frank Newton, Mike Elsey, Monte Masters, and others. 

The family made a move to Ft. Gibson, OK in 1982 where Mike was the manager for Sonic 

Drive-In in Muskogee, OK. During his tenure at Sonic, a new store was built on York Street in Muskogee and included a move to the Bartlesville store. A trip to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, AR for a manager outing re-ignited his passion for horse racing. Mike started training a few quarter horses and raced them at Blue Ribbon Downs. In 1988 the family moved to Jones, OK with the opening of Remington Park in Oklahoma City. Mike headquartered his stable there while shipping to Blue Ribbon Downs, Fair Meadows, Will Rogers Downs, Canterbury Park, Trinity Meadows, Lone Star Park and Sam Houston Race Park and others. Until his death, Mike believed that Best of the Crop (Relaunch – Rating Point, by Quack) was the best horse he ever trained. 

Once Mike quit training he worked as a jockey agent until his retirement. He worked with Debbie Freeman, Dudley Jacobs, Jenna Joubert, Benny Landeros, Freddy Manrrique, Obed Sanchez, Rohan Singh, and several apprentice jockeys. 

Mike is survived by his siblings: Colleen O’Grady Laine, Sean O’Grady, and Rosie O’Grady; his children: Shelly Asche, her husband Brad, and their son Marshall of Tulsa, OK; Michael Gass, his wife Julie, and their children Alexis, Ashlynn, Abigail, and Aidan of Edmond, OK; Mark Gass and his sons Chad (Jenson) and Toben of Jones, OK; Shiela O’Toole, her husband Michael, and their children Hayli Hoffman (Kaylynn) and Hannah Burks (Ayton & Luka) of Edmond, OK; Caleb O’Toole, his wife Jenna (Emersyn); Justin O’Toole; Nathan O’Toole, his wife Caroline Whitmarsh (Odette & Athena); many half-siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of dear friends, including lifelong friends Kenny Overturf and Harold Reese. Mike was preceded in death by his wife, parents, step-father, and sister, Patty (Trisha) Shepard. 

A memorial service will be held at Remington Park in September during the Thoroughbred meet. Friends and family are invited to gather and celebrate Michael’s life. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the https://pdjf.org/ The Permanently Disabled Jockey fund or the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation https://www.trfinc.org/ in Michael’s memory. 

Michael will be laid to rest at the Womer Cemetery in Womer, KS with his wife Diana. 

Rest in Peace, Michael.

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