If there was racing at Ellis Park, Cowboy was right here. That is how all people knew him. No have to determine him by his first title, Robert. Or initials, R.A. And whereas there are a number of Joneses, and whereas there could be a good variety of cowboys on the Pea Patch, there was only one Cowboy with the capital C.
Ellis Park honors a real Tri-State titan with Saturday’s $70,000 R.A. “Cowboy” Jones In a single day Stakes.
Cowboy Jones died April 25 on the age of 79, leaving legions of followers with numerous reminiscences of and affection for the monitor’s No. 1 character. Different jockeys have gained extra races and driving titles than Jones’ three meet championships at Ellis Park. Nobody comes shut as a people hero.
The Evansville Courier & Press’ headline saying his dying hailed Jones as “Bigger than Life,” with sportswriter Gordon Engelhardt calling him “a rock star in stirrups. A legend. A perpetually hard-working throwback” thought to be “some of the colourful and celebrated jockeys in Ellis Park historical past.”
“The material of Ellis Park is Cowboy Jones,” Ellis racing secretary Dan Bork mentioned within the article.
Jon Court docket, now the dean of Kentucky riders and a seven-time Ellis Park champion, mentioned he sought recommendation from Jones after arriving on the circuit within the late Nineteen Nineties.
“I give him credit score for serving to me be main rider for a few years at Ellis Park,” Court docket mentioned. “He was at all times beloved, will at all times be remembered and we’ll at all times have a spot in our coronary heart for Cowboy Jones.”
Jones, who formally started driving in 1959 after spending time on the bush tracks round South Dakota, gained at the least one race in six totally different many years and fell wanting his try and make it a document seventh. For the final a part of his profession, he’d trip only some races a meet however was out each morning to get on horses till the stewards made him lastly cling up his saddle.
However Cowboy wasn’t completed with the game he beloved. You’d see the longtime Henderson resident out day by day that Ellis Park ran, at all times smiling, speaking with followers, reveling in getting his photograph taken whereas carrying an enormous cowboy hat and serving as ambassador for the monitor and racing.
“He was an icon at Ellis Park and let’s not overlook Miles Park,” coach Rick Hiles, who first met Jones within the Nineteen Seventies, mentioned in reference to the long-shuttered monitor in west Louisville the place Cowboy was the king. “He was fearless, and he was the kingpin – one of many prime riders round. He gave it his all. That was what he beloved doing, and he was a personality.”
When he was rolling, Cowboy was well-known for driving round in a white Cadillac convertible throughout the summer time mornings with the highest up, the home windows closed tight, the heater at full blast and carrying a rubber swimsuit with a purpose to get all the way down to his driving weight.
“He’d do something to maintain driving, as a result of that is all he needed to do,” Hiles mentioned.
Cowboy endured scores of damaged bones and was typically quoted as saying his accidents shrank his peak 5 inches. Coach Gary “Crimson Canine” Hartlage mentioned considered one of his first reminiscences of Jones got here within the Nineteen Sixties at Toledo’s Raceway Park. Jones walked haltingly into the paddock.
“He was damaged down even then off a spill,” Hartlage recalled. “He got here out of the jocks’ room with a cane. Somebody threw him up on the horse, and he went on about his enterprise. He was a tricky previous chook. At all times had a cheerful face on him, too.
“He was a fixture. Cowboy was Cowboy. He was there each morning. Simply good for racing. Everyone appreciated him. He’d be on the races day by day. You go to Ellis Park, Cowboy was there, strolling round along with his cowboy hat on — and cane, if he needed to. He was a folks’s folks.”
Equibase statistics for Jones solely return to 1976, reflecting simply the final 38 years of his 55-year driving profession, however it’s estimated he gained round 1,800 races. He final rode on July 26, 2014 at Ellis Park, ending fourth in a $4,000 claiming race. He final gained a race Sept. 15, 2004 at Turfway Park, taking a $5,000 claiming race by a nostril at age 61.
Correction. He gained a race as a part-owner of the Bryan Cole-trained $5,000 claimer Matt’s Honey with Dennis O’Keefe’s O’Keefe Circus at Ellis Park on Sept. 1, 2019. The gang available went wild.
“First time I have been within the winner’s circle on foot,” Jones mentioned afterward, including of Edgar Morales, “I instructed that jock, ‘I’ve by no means thrown a jock up on a horse earlier than. I hope I do not throw you over.’ It was enjoyable. My driving days are most likely just about being over. I loved speaking to the jock earlier than the race. We agreed on all the pieces. I mentioned, ‘She will run, however she hasn’t put forth any effort.’ He rode excellent to directions. He could not have rode any higher if it had been me on it.”
Moreso than his notable driving achievements, Jones is an Ellis Park icon for being a personality, his longevity and his overwhelming recognition. He obtained the last word honor by being immortalized with an Ellis Park bobblehead.
For a few years, as his enterprise waned, Jones served because the “room rider” – a jockey paid by the monitor to stay round by the final race to make sure there could be a rider in case a horse would instantly want one. All through his race-riding profession, and nicely previous, he continued to gallop horses within the morning.
Steve Krajcir, a former clerk of scales at Ellis Park and now a jockey’s agent, famous that there lengthy has been an indication within the jocks’ room that proclaims “House of R.A. Cowboy Jones.”
Effectively into his 70s, “he was nonetheless desirous to get licensed, and the stewards lastly mentioned no extra,” Krajcir mentioned. “It was in Cowboy’s coronary heart and in his thoughts that he needed to maintain driving. As a result of that is what Cowboy did: trip races.
“He was positively a fixture there…. I might prefer to have a nickel for each time he put one round there on the racetrack within the mornings. He’d get on 10 ,15, 20 horses a day — simply hustle one after one other. He beloved it down there at Ellis, and the followers beloved him.”