04/21/2011 3:26PM

Jess Jackson remembered for compassion, sportsmanship


OZONE PARK, N.Y. − When the 2-year-old filly Abide won her debut at Saratoga on Aug. 1, the first congratulatory phone call owner George Bolton received was from Jess Jackson. The same held true Dec. 26, when The Factor set a track record for six furlongs (1:06.98) at Santa Anita, beating, among others, the Jackson-owned Houston Harbor.

“That’s the type of guy he was,” Bolton said Thursday from Florida. “Not only would he call me about the horses he owned [with Bolton], he called me about the horses he didn’t own.”

Bolton owned several horses in partnership with Jackson, including 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin and Astrology, a 3-year-old colt who runs in Saturday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct. Jackson died Thursday at age 81 following a long battle with cancer.

Bolton recalled Jackson as an enthusiastic, competitive, compassionate, and “always optimistic” person who left an indelible mark on the sport in the way he campaigned Curlin and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

Bolton praised Jackson for his decision to bring Curlin back as a 4-year-old after he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was named Horse of the Year at 3.

“To put him back in training and run him another year was very, very sportsmanlike,” Bolton said. “To buy a horse like Rachel Alexandra and put her in the Preakness, Mother Goose, Haskell, and Woodward in four months was the gutsiest move I’ve seen an owner make.”

Bolton and Jackson bought Curlin following his maiden win at Gulfstream in February of 2007. The horse won the Rebel and Arkansas Derby before finishing third to Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby, a horse he would beat two weeks later by a head in the Preakness. Curlin lost the Belmont to the filly Rags to Riches and the Haskell to Hard Spun, but Bolton said Jackson never wavered in his belief in the horse or his trainer Steve Asmussen.

“He just said, ‘We’ll get ’em in the fall,’ ” said Bolton, noting that Curlin won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bolton bought into Astrology after the horse consigned by Jackson failed to reach his reserve at the 2009 Keeneland yearling auction. Astrology won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at 2 and finished second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. In his only start this year, Astrology finished second in the Sunland Derby.

Rather than attempt to make the Kentucky Derby, the decision was made to run Astrology in the Jerome as a possible prep for the Preakness. Bolton said his parents have thrown a party at their farm just north of Pimlico on the eve of the two Preaknesses that Jackson won.

“He loved that. He loved the fact Maryland racing had such history to it, and I think he loved the fact he was 2 for 2,’’ Bolton said. “We’re going to miss him. The game’s going to miss him.”

DRF MORNING LINE: Get out of the gate fast every day - sign up for DRF's free newsletter