A childhood passion inspired Judy Maas to own and race horses at some of the America's greatest racetracks: Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Hialeah and even Churchill Downs, home to the Kentucky Derby and the Yankee Stadium of thoroughbred racing.

Maas, who learned to ride as a child in Edina, died Aug. 31 after her recent diagnosis of throat cancer. She was 72.

"My mother rode hunter and jumper horses when she was a girl, and she always wanted to own horses," daughter Michelle Perry said.

Maas' husband, Philip, told her that "if Minnesota ever gets a track, you can own a race horse," Perry said, recalling her parents' pact. "Then Canterbury was going to open, and my dad had to make good on the bet."

What followed was a full commitment from the Maases to thoroughbred racing that continues to this day, owning horses, and racing them at Canterbury Park and at tracks around the country.

"She was the horse person, and I was just along for the ride," said her husband, Phil "Skip" Maas, who made a career for himself as president of Boyer Ford Trucks in Minneapolis and also was part of the Roger Headrick group that owned the Minnesota Vikings.

The couple's first horse was Momsfurrari, the son of 1976 Preakness Stakes winner Elocutionist, which they bought for $11,000 at the 1985 Keeneland fall yearling sale.

As the horse person, it was Judy Maas who named their thoroughbreds.

"A few years ago, my husband came home from a business trip to Chicago driving a bright red Ferrari, which he had wanted for a long time," she said in a Star Tribune interview in 1987. "In return, he promised if we ever got racing [in Minnesota], I could have a horse. Now I have my Ferrari."

Skip Maas recalled with precision more than 25 years later that Momsfurrari "started 99 times, and he won nine times," earning more than $440,000.

Judy Maas' crowning achievement as a horse owner came in May 1992, when filly and longest of long shots Luv Me Luv Me Not narrowly won the $280,700 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs before nearly 80,000 fans. The Maases' take of the purse was more than $180,000.

Luv Me Luv Me Not "was the best horse we ever had," Skip Maas said. "She was a campaigner."

Judy Maas' father was the late Bill Boyer, a Twin Cities auto dealer and one of the five founding owners of the Vikings in 1960.

Judy Maas grew up in Edina and raised her family with Skip Maas in Edina as well, eventually retiring to the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area. As recently as last summer, the Maases' A She's Adorable won the Lady Canterbury Stakes.

Along with her husband and daughter Michelle, Judy Maas is survived by another daughter, Melanie. Memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, with visitation beginning at 1 p.m., at Washburn-McReavy Edina Chapel, W. 50th Street and Hwy. 100.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482