Death of leading owner-breeder Jess Jackson

Prominent North American owner Jess Jackson has died after a lengthy battle with cancer.  He was 81.

Jackson founded the Kendall – Jackson Winery and played an influential role in American racing by campaigning Horses of the Year Rachel Alexandra and Curlin.  

Active until the last, Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables purchased the sale-topping Indian Charlie colt for $625,000 at the Keeneland 2YO Sale on Monday.

Jackson was roundly praised for his contribution to the racing and breeding industries.

“Jess left an indelible mark in a relatively short period of time,” National Thoroughbred Racing Association CEO Alex Waldrop said.  “He was outspoken in his calls for a high degree of integrity in our industry.  But he will perhaps be best remembered for racing many outstanding horses like Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.

“He insisted on racing Curlin in 2008 when there was little more to prove against the financial temptation to retire him to stud.  What transpired was an inspiring campaign for Curlin and it was yet another reminder of what Jess routinely achieved with his wonderful combination of wisdom and passion.”

Richard Getty, a friend who represented Jackson on equine legal matters, said Jackson will be sorely missed.  “I hope those in the industry realize what a good and decent man he was.  Those who bring change sometimes aren’t fully appreciated until they’re gone.  I think he is one of the more important people in the horse industry in the last decade.”

New York Racing Association president Charles Hayward said Jackson made New York State a second home for his two superstars Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.  “Their careers resulted in many unforgettable performances at Belmont Park and Saratoga.  Rachel’s extraordinary 2009 Woodward victory in front of more than 30,000 cheering fans at Saratoga remains one of my best memories in racing.”

Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said Jackson was the consummate competitor who made everyone around him raise their game whether it be in a vineyard or at the racetrack.  “He loved his horses and enjoyed his time in Kentucky.  I admired his willingness to challenge the status quo.  But most of all, I admired him as a person.  Our sport is better because of his participation in it.”

Keeneland vice president Walt Robertson added.  “When I think of Jess Jackson, I think of tenacity.  He demanded excellence and would not settle for anything less.  He was a success-driven man who often told the industry what we didn’t want to hear, but what we needed to hear.  It takes a strong man to do that.”

Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan said Jackson was first and foremost a true sportsman.  “He wanted to keep horses in training longer.  He thought it was great for the racing public to garner interest and keep the racing stars on the racetrack longer.”

Jackson is survived by his second wife Barbara (Banke), five children and two grand-children.  And Rachel Alexandra has just been tested in foal to Curlin.