Photo: Coady Photography
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Frank L. Jones Jr. is a horse owner, breeder and horseplayer who has volunteered immeasurable time helping the thoroughbred industry through his work on behalf of horsemen and as a regulator.
For that depth of contributions to racing, the Louisville businessman and entrepreneur is being honored by the Louisville-based Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners with the organization’s 2019 Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award. Frank Jones is the featured honoree at the KTO’s 32nd annual awards gala Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Kentucky Derby Museum, 704 Central Avenue adjacent to Churchill Downs. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. ET, with dinner at 7. Tickets are available for $125, including dinner and drinks, by contacting Marlene Meyer at 502-458-5820 or Chris Murphy at 502-500-5141.
“It’s a fantastic honor,” Frank Jones said. “I’m very pleased that people thought that much of me.”
The Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion exemplified by Jones, who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence. Warner Jones — the first and so far only breeder of a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup winner — was the inaugural award winner in 1988, six years before his death. “Frank L. Jones Jr. has a lot in common with Warner L. Jones Jr., well beyond the similarity in name,” said KTO President Chris Murphy.
“Like Warner Jones, Frank has had an extraordinary reach of benefaction to the industry. He has contributed to horse racing for decades and in a multitude of ways, many of them behind the scenes, in addition to investing in the sport through breeding, racing and, yes, putting money through the betting windows”.
“The KTO this year is proud to honor one of our own in Frank Jones. Among the unsung capacities he has quietly filled for years has been providing wise counsel and advice to many in horse racing. In fact, closest to home here, Frank as in 1998 and 1999 brought the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners back into having its own identity and purpose as a stand-alone organization. What great shape our wonderful sport and industry would be in if we had more people who could keep up with these Joneses.”
Dale Romans, who followed his late father, Jerry Romans, as the only trainers Jones has had, said that “there aren’t enough awards for Frank for what he deserves for what he’s done for horse racing, especially in Kentucky”.
“People don’t realize everything he’s done. All the boards he’s been on, all the time he’s volunteered, all the horses he’s owned, all the loyalty he’s shown, all the money he’s bet. He’s supported every aspect of this game. There are great things that have happened in Kentucky racing that trace back to Frank that people will never know.”
Also like Warner Jones, Frank Jones is a Louisville native who has spent practically his entire life in the area. He attended Western Kentucky University and is a U.S. Air Force veteran. In 1979, Jones and three partners put in $500 each to start a classified ad newspaper. The partners sold the newspaper in 1992 to Landmark Communications, now Landmark Media Enterprises. Jones bought Recreonics Corp., a national aquatic catalog, that same year and moved the company from Indianapolis to Louisville.
The company has become the world leader in institutional and commercial swimming pool equipment and supplies. For such endeavors, Jones was nominated as an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1989 and 1990. Jones, who owned his first racehorse in 1968, has literally known Dale since the day the trainer was born, with the younger Romans calling his client a father figure and “the single most important person in my life” after Jerry’s death at age 58 in 2000.
Jones was the leading owner at Churchill Downs’ 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1995 spring meets. Along with Dale Romans, he has transformed his stable from mainly claimers to the pursuit of increased quality. Jones bred and raced $1.5 million-earner Tapitsfly, the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner in 2009 and winner of Belmont’s Grade 1 Just a Game and Keeneland’s Grade 1 First Lady.
He bred and raced 2016 Preakness Stakes runner-up Cherry Wine and Churchill Downs’ Grade 3 Regret winner Sweeping Paddy in partnership with William Pacella and Frank Shoop. Jones owns multiple graded stakes-placed Tiz Mischief and campaigns stakes-caliber Rare Form with the Churchill Downs Racing Club and the 3-year-old filly Shacklette with Nancy Delony Jones, whom he married in August. But Jones’ most important contributions to racing are his unpaid work on behalf of horsemen and those working in the industry. Typical of Jones, he and Nancy requested donations to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund instead of wedding gifts.
Jones is a vice president and decades-long member of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, for whom he’s been a negotiator for some of the best contracts in the country for racehorse owners and trainers with tracks. He is a former member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, including two terms as vice chair, serving as an important voice for horsemen and horseplayers while also understanding the business world. Jones continues to serve on the board of the Kentucky Racing Health & Welfare Fund, which provides health resources and financial assistance to the Commonwealth’s backstretch workers. Jones was president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners in 1998-1999 and is a member of the American Horse Council, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.