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As Regulator, Horsemen’s Rep Jones Shaped KY Racing

Thoroughbred owner Frank Jones Jr., who helped shape the industry in the Bluegrass State through his longtime involvement with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and horsemen’s organizations, died Aug. 9. He was 86. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear paid tribute to Jones, an Air Force veteran who currently had served as vice chairman of the KHRC.

“Put simply, Frank was making a difference. He was an award-winning leader, committed to helping those within this essential Kentucky industry live better lives. I was proud to call him a friend,” Gov. Beshear said. “Frank will be missed. And my prayers are with his family, friends, and the entire Thoroughbred industry. I think we all know Frank’s legacy will live on.”

As an owner Jones campaigned homebred two-time grade 1 winner Tapitsfly , who won the second edition of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) in 2009 at Santa Anita Park. Jones finished as the leading owner at the Churchill Downs spring meet four times from 1989-1995.

“It’s a tough day,” said Dale Romans, who with his dad, the late Jerry Romans, were the only trainers Jones had in 57 years of owning horses. “He was a great man.” 

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Jones also bred and raced 2016 Preakness Stakes (G1) runner-up Cherry Wine  and, in partnership with William Pacella and Frank Shoop, Regret Stakes (G3T) winner Sweeping Paddy . Jones owned the multiple graded stakes-placed Tiz Mischief  and campaigned Rare Form  with the Churchill Downs Racing Club, which encourages new owners to try the sport.

In the years after his father’s death at age 58 in 2000, Romans considered Jones to be the single most important person in his life.

“People don’t realize everything he’s done,” Romans said in 2019 when Jones was named recipient of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award. “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.”

Tapitsfly cannot be caught in the Just a Game.
Photo: Coglianese Photos/David Alcosser


Even while very ill, Jones stayed active in KHRC business, participating in meetings via Zoom. His expertise as a participant, as well as a handicapper, would prove valuable to the KHRC over the years. He also worked to assist backstretch workers.

“The passing of Frank Jones is a huge loss for not only his family and friends, but the entire horse racing industry,” said KHRC chairman Jonathan Rabinowitz. “As a valuable member and vice chairman of the KHRC and secretary of the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund, he used his voice to elevate other horsemen, serving and providing guidance to backstretch workers who cannot afford medical assistance on their own. We have all lost a great friend who will be dearly missed.”

“Frank was thoughtful, knowledgeable; always willing to listen and provide guidance to the commission and staff,” said KHRC executive director Jamie Eads. “As a commission member, he would check in on me often, just to see how things were going. He always asked how my family was doing and he worked as an advocate for horse racing until the very end.”

Jones served as a commissioner under three administrations. He was first appointed to the horse racing commission in March 1997 by Gov. Paul Patton; reappointed in 2008 by Gov. Steve Beshear; and, in Jan. of 2020, Gov. Andy Beshear asked him to serve.

Commissioner and sometimes partner owner Shoop mourned the loss. 

“This is tough. Frank Jones was a partner in ownership and breeding for more than 25 years. He was a friend to me, and to the entire Thoroughbred industry,” Shoop said.

Jones served as director and vice president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association for more than three decades. Jones owned Recreonics Corp., a world leader in institutional and commercial swimming pool equipment and supplies and a Kentucky HBPA release credited him with using that business acumen to the benefit of horsemen. He also was past president of the Louisville-based Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners.

Kentucky HBPA president Rick Hiles reflected on how he and Jones worked together as officers of the horsemen’s organization for more than 35 years.

“I don’t know how you replace someone like Frank,” Hiles said. “We’re going to miss him terribly. He was just an integral part of our organization, including helping to negotiate the contracts that have benefited horsemen so much. His heart was in racing and the backside. That was his passion.”

In October Jones was selected as one of the initial members of the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit’s Horsemen’s Advisory Group. That group gathers monthly to provide feedback for HISA’s executive team and standing committees on the implementation and evolution of HISA’s Racetrack Safety and Anti-Doping and Medication Control regulations.

Jones is survived by his wife Nancy Delony Jones, whom he married in August 2019. He was predeceased by his first wife of 58 years, Gloria Jones. Perhaps Jones’ most important contributions to racing were 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.

Track officials noted that the current strength of the Kentucky racing circuit and its breeding is part of Jones’ legacy.

“The Kentucky horse racing and breeding industry wouldn’t be in the strong position it is in today without the passion, commitment, and leadership of Frank Jones Jr.,” said Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen in a statement. “From his meaningful contribution to the Kentucky HBPA to his impact on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and as past president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners, our sport and community lost a dear friend and tremendous advocate, and we at Churchill Downs lost a valued partner.

“He will be greatly missed, and our thoughts are with his family and countless number of friends and colleagues during this difficult time.”

“It’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever again see someone serving as such a leader in so many capacities in horse racing as Frank Jones did,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ vice president for racing. “Frank could be tough, but horse racing benefited from that toughness. Even more so, Frank had a heart of gold, and horse racing certainly benefited from his wise counsel, wisdom, and generosity.”

Arrangements are pending.  

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