Updated on 09/15/2011 12:58PM

Jimmy Jones dead at 94

Suzie Picou-Oldham
H.A. "Jimmy" Jones died Sunday afternoon at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Mo. He was 94.

Far from the thundering crowds of Churchill Downs, where his family's name became synonymous with success in America's most famous horse race, H.A. "Jimmy" Jones died Sunday afternoon at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Mo., near his home in Parnell. He was 94 and had been hospitalized since May.

"His kidneys hadn't been good," said Hale Sanders, a prominent local farmer and a lifelong friend of Jones.

"But if he was in any pain, he didn't speak of it," Sanders said on Sunday. "He wasn't suffering, and he still knew who I was whenever I'd visit. About three days ago, he slipped into a kind of semi-coma and just went to sleep. He died around 2:30 in the afternoon."

The son, assistant, and finally the successor of the legendary trainer B.A. "Plain Ben" Jones, Jimmy Jones was the articulate and sociable counterpart to his aloof and intimidating father. Both of them were elected to the racing Hall of Fame, and together they helped Calumet become the country's most powerful farm and set training records that stand to this day.

Jimmy Jones outlived his father by 40 years, emerging from his shadow to become one of racing's most popular personalities. Although he retired from training in 1964, Jones served as Monmouth Park's director of racing until 1976 and then spent the next 25 years as racing's unofficial ambassador of goodwill, always available to lend his presence to charities, award ceremonies, and major events.

Even into his 90's, Jones traveled to his Miami residence each winter to enjoy the season at Gulfstream Park. He would then stop in Louisville to attend the Kentucky Derby while on his way home to Parnell, a farming hamlet just south of the Iowa border in northwestern Missouri.

This year, however, Jones was forced to miss the Derby, departing Florida to go directly to Missouri, where he was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia. Still, he was able to tout Derby winner Monarchos from his hospital bed. He had seen the colt win the Florida Derby.

"He's got the kind of move that wins the Derby," Jones said.

He would know. Between the two Jones Boys, as they were universally known, Jimmy and his father accounted for two Triple Crown winners, five Horses of the Year, eight Kentucky Derby winners, and nine national training championships between 1938 and 1961.

Their list of champions included Citation, Whirlaway, Mar-Kel, Armed, Twilight Tear, Bewitch, Coaltown, Two Lea, Wistful, Real Delight, and Tim Tam.

Under their guidance, powerful Calumet Farm was champion owner in North America 12 times and champion breeder 14 times.

Horace Allyn Jones was born on Nov. 24, 1906, while his father was already building a reputation as an uncanny horse trainer. Jimmy, as he was nicknamed early, had no desire to enter the family farming business, and he gravitated to his father's racing stable, known as Jones Stock Farm. Jimmy saddled his first official winner in New Orleans in 1926.

After a brief detour at Northwest Missouri Teachers' College (as well as a term as mayor of Parnell during the Depression), Jimmy Jones dove headlong into training at his father's side. In 1931, the Joneses were hired by Kansas City businessman Herbert Woolf to train his Woolford Farm horses. In 1938, they won their first Kentucky Derby with the Woolford colt Lawrin, ridden by Eddie Arcaro.

The victory drew the attention of Warren Wright, who wanted to shift his Calumet Farm operation from Standardbreds to Thoroughbreds. Ben Jones jumped at the offer, taking over in September of 1938.

Success came quickly. In 1941, Calumet had its first Derby winner with the long-tailed Whirlaway, a difficult beast who became the fifth winner of the Triple Crown. When it came to handling Whirlaway's many ailments and eccentricities, Jimmy Jones credited his father with what he called "the greatest job of training I ever saw, pure genius."

Jimmy Jones served in the Coast Guard during World War II, going on leave long enough to see his father win the 1944 Kentucky Derby with Pensive. Jones was discharged later that year and returned to the racetrack.

Although their names were becoming nearly inseparable, the Jones Boys had enough prime horseflesh to maintain two distinct divisions of Calumet Farm runners. At one time or another, Jimmy would be in California, New York, or Maryland while his father handled the Calumet horses in Florida, Kentucky, or Chicago.

When Ben's health began to fail in 1947, he took the title of Calumet Farm general manager and began placing more and more responsibility on his son. Jimmy responded by leading the national standings in purses for the 1947, '48, and '49 seasons. Citation was at the heart of those years, and very nearly came between father and son.

Jimmy trained the son of Bull Lea to a record of eight wins in nine starts as a 2-year-old in 1947. Citation then rolled to five more wins in his first six starts at age 3. He was heavily favored to win the Derby.

But with a chance to tie H.J. Thompson's Derby record of four winners, Ben Jones took over the training of Citation for the Derby Trial and the Derby. Citation won them both, then went back under the name of Jimmy Jones to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, becoming the eighth winner of the Triple Crown. He went on to win 16 races in a row, establishing a modern record.

Although he did not protest publicly, Jimmy Jones never really forgave his father for the 1948 Kentucky Derby slight.

"That was a battleground for us," Jones said last June. "That wasn't right. I almost quit. But I couldn't. I never had a better job."

One year later, Ben Jones won his fifth Kentucky Derby with Ponder, then a sixth in 1952 with Hill Gail.

By then, Jimmy Jones had taken over the bulk of the Calumet operation.

Warren Wright died in 1950 - just before Citation's retirement as racing's first millionaire - and his widow, Bertha, married Admiral Gene Markey. The stable continued to flourish with such runners as Miz Clementine, Bardstown, On-and-On, and Preakness winner Fabius. Then, in 1957, Jimmy Jones was convinced he had a Kentucky Derby winner in his own right.

"Bill Hartack called Gen. Duke the greatest 3-year-old he'd ever ridden," Jones once said. "And I was convinced he was the greatest 3-year-old we'd seen since Citation."

At the same time, Sports Illustrated magazine had been chronicling the progress since his berth in 1954 of a Calumet Farm colt named Iron Liege. As the 1957 Kentucky Derby approached, Iron Liege was all but forgotten in the excitement over Gen. Duke. But then, on the eve of the Derby, General Duke had to be scratched because of an injured foot. Jones was left with Iron Liege, and Iron Liege surprised everyone by defeating a field that included Gallant Man, Bold Ruler, and Round Table.

"I was never so happy to win a race in my life," Jones told his biographer, Daily Racing Form executive columnist Joe Hirsch. "It was my first official Derby victory, and it was all so unexpected. I grabbed B.A. and whirled him around in pure excitement and joy."

In 1958, Jones won the Derby again with Tim Tam and nearly pulled off another Triple Crown for Calumet. But Tim Tam fractured an ankle while trying to win the Belmont and had to be retired.

"He might have been the bravest horse I ever saw," Jones said years later.

The following year, Jimmy Jones was elected to the racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., joining his father, who was inducted in 1958. They were the first father and son so honored.

At the time of his death, Jimmy Jones was the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame. He had hoped to attend this year's Hall of Fame ceremonies, and even as recently as June he was making plans for next winter.

"I'm not through yet," Jones said then. "I'll be 95 in November. I'd like to go to Miami this winter. Too cold to stay around here."

It is still summertime in Parnell, where Jones will be buried on Wednesday, in the family plot at Rose Hill Cemetery next to his father, B.A.; his mother, Etta Jones, and his first and only wife, Peggy. The couple had no children.

Jones is survived by his 92-year-old sister, Mrs. Pauline Kneale of Jefferson City, Mo.