01/27/2015 10:13AM

Northwest Farms owner Jerre Paxton dies at age 76

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Reed Palmer Photography
Jerre Paxton, shown in the winner's circle at Emerald Downs in May 2014, died on Sunday night at age 76.

SEATTLE – Jerre Paxton, a titan in the Pacific Northwest breeding industry and charter member of the Washington Racing Hall of Fame, died Sunday evening at his Seattle home. The cause was an apparent heart attack, family members said. Paxton was 76.

Paxton, who owned Northwest Farms in Yakima, Wash., bred 12 state champions and ranked No. 1 at Emerald Downs with 37 career stakes victories.

Stopshoppingdebbie, a Northwest Farms homebred named for Paxton’s wife, Debbie Paxton, set an Emerald Downs record with eight consecutive stakes victories from 2013-14. Paxton also campaigned Smarty Deb, who became the first Emerald-based runner to compete in the Breeders’ Cup when she finished fifth in the 2007 Juvenile Fillies.

Featured among Paxton’s other state champions were Northwest legends Loto Canada, Sharper One, and Firesweeper, who was inducted into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame in 2011.

Northwest Farms was Washington’s leading breeder from 1984 through 1995 while standing influential stallions Drum Fire and Knights Choice. Paxton later moved most of his breeding operation to Greenfield Farm near Lexington, Ky.

Paxton employed some of the region’s top trainers over the years, including Bob McMeans, Doris Harwood, and in recent years, Tom Wenzel.

“Jerre was a private man who kept things close to the vest, but the guy had a huge heart,” Wenzel said Monday. “He took good care of you -- you saw his employees stay around for a long time. With the horses, it was all black-and-white with him. He had a vision, and he knew what he wanted to do. It was an absolute privilege to train for him.”

Paxton spent Sunday afternoon at Emerald Downs, wagering on simulcast races from his regular table in the Turf Club.

“We’re stunned and deeply saddened by this loss,” said Emerald Downs founder Ron Crockett. “The red-and-black silks of Jerre Paxton and Northwest Farms are emblematic of enormous quality.”

In addition to his wife, Debbie, of Yakima, Paxton is survived by daughters Stephanie Paxton-Jackson, Melissa Paxton-Steiner, and Kim Hagner. Funeral arrangements are pending.