04/19/2017 11:21AM

Former jockey, steward Long killed in car crash

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Retired jockey and exercise rider James Long, who maintained ties to the racing industry in recent years as a steward at Hazel Park in Michigan, was killed late Tuesday night in a one-car accident on Interstate 64 in Shelby County, Ky.

Long, 62, had been a mainstay on the Kentucky racing circuit for much of his career and still made his home in Frankfort, according to his longtime friend, trainer James Jackson.

“This is a really sad deal,” said Jackson.

Long, who stood 4-foot-8, grew up in New York and was one of the few black jockeys when riding his first race in 1974. He found success quickly, winning the 1975 Dwyer Handicap aboard Valid Appeal for owner Harry T. Mangurian, before his career was slowed by numerous injuries. In all, Long won more than 300 races, with his last winner coming at Great Lakes Downs in 2007 and his last mount at Turfway Park in 2008.

While riding races with increasing infrequency in Kentucky and Michigan in the 1990s and 2000s, he often worked as an exercise rider for trainer Bernie Flint at Churchill Downs.

“The last few years, he always made it a point to come by,” said Flint. “James was always first-class, a real gentleman.”

Long attended the races last week at Keeneland while home from his duties at Hazel. Jackson said Long had owned a bar for years in Frankfort and had recently sold it. Long was a father of four, said Jackson.

Mary Anne Barron, racing secretary at Hazel, said she hired Long as the clerk of scales when the Detroit-area track resumed Thoroughbred racing in 2014 and that Long ascended to the position of state steward last year.

“He was extremely well liked, an all-around good guy,” said Barron.

Long had been a featured speaker Tuesday evening in Louisville at an event sponsored by the Courier-Journal, according to a report early Wednesday on the newspaper’s website, and was on his way back to Frankfort when the accident occurred.

“It was incredible to hear James share his remarkable story as a pioneer in horse racing,” Joel Christopher, Courier-Journal executive editor, said in the report. “He was rightfully proud of his legacy on and off the track.”

The report said neither drugs nor alcohol was believed to have contributed to the wreck, but that toxicology reports are pending.