Jones was a fierce advocate for California racing
ARCADIA, Calif. – News regarding the passing of retired Hall of Fame trainer Gary Jones hit hard at Santa Anita Monday morning, as word circulated that Jones had passed away following a lengthy illness at age 76 at his home in Del Mar.
The son of one of California’s all time training greats, Gary Jones was born June 16, 1944 in Long Beach and he was unquestionably destined for a life at the racetrack, which he certainly made the most of.
After an extended apprenticeship under his father, the legendary Farrell “Wild Horse” Jones, Gary Jones took over the Jones Stable in 1974 and from there, took it to new heights, as the barn produced an incredible 104 stakes winners over the next 22 years, including 1986 Eclipse Award winning Older Horse, Turkoman.
In addition to stakes horses, Jones was also ultra-competitive with claiming stock, anywhere and anyhow, evidenced by his 15 Southern California training titles, four of which were here at Santa Anita, including a record 47-win Winter/Spring stand in 1975-76.
A trainer who redefined hands-on horsemanship, Jones operated a split stable between Santa Anita and Hollywood Park for several years and he had a bushel basket full of speeding tickets to prove it.
“I gotta seem ’em go myself,” he once said, when asked why he felt compelled to watch a set or two of his horses train in Inglewood prior to blasting up the Harbor Freeway back to Arcadia in time to oversee the training of his Santa Anita-based charges. “I’ve got good people, but I just can’t take somebody’s else’s word for it. I want to see them myself.”
A two-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap — in 1992 with eventual Hall of Famer Best Pal and in 1994, via disqualification, with Stuka, Jones ranks eighth on Santa Anita’s all time Winter/Spring win list with 576 victories and he is currently ninth in Santa Anita stakes-won with 72.
Jones, who was a fierce advocate for California racing, trained an incredible array of talented horses prior to his retirement in 1996 that included Kostroma, Quiet American, Time to Explode, Lakeway and Wishing Well, who would go on to become the dam of 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence.
Gary Jones is survived by his wife Joanie and two sons, trainer Marty and David, who is a Los Angeles-based attorney.
Services are pending.
Photo: Gary Jones. Credit: Benoit