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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Just call him ‘Cowboy’ – 70-year-old jockey still riding strong, a sentimental fan favorite

He’s known as ‘Cowboy’ Jones by racing fans everywhere, and at 70 years old, he’s still going strong. He’s a popular fixture at Ellis Park in Henderson, where he still breezes horses regularly and draws a crowd when he occasionally has a race mount. Today, he’ll be riding a maiden five-year-old mare at Fairmount Park – and setting records regardless of the outcome. Thanks to Ken Roberts of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for this story. (July 24: Post race and for the record, Cowboy’s horse, the favorite, ran second.)


By Ken Roberts
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


Robert A. Jones has won races in six decades as a thoroughbred jockey.


On Tuesday at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Jones, 70, will try to win a race in his seventh decade of riding.


Robert A. "Cowboy" Jones (Photo from St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Robert A. “Cowboy” Jones (Photo from St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Jones, who is nicknamed “Cowboy” and hails from Herrin, Ill., is scheduled to ride maiden My Kentucky Breeze, a 5-year-old mare out of Ecton Park-Athruz Breeze by Alaphbet Soup, in the second race.


Post time for the one-mile $5,000-maiden claiming race is about 1:25 p.m. Post time for the first race of the eight-race card is 1 p.m.


According to Equibase, Jones is a multiple stakes-placed jockey, who has made 3,997 starts with 271 wins, 319 seconds and 359 thirds and has earned $1,549,168. He has ridden mainly in the Midwest, including Fairmount and the old Cahokia Downs.


According to a July 24, 2008 online story on the Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press website, courierpress.com, Jones was the leading rider at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. in 1963 and 1966.


When Jones was 65, he raced against 74-year-old Jerold Gammon in 2008 in a race at Ellis.


“This is my Kentucky Derby,” Jones said by phone from Ellis Park, where he gallops horses daily. “If I win this, it’s all over for me. I’ve done everything I wanted to do.


“I’ve outlived my competition and I’ve outlived my fans.”


Counting the county fair wins, Jones, who started riding at the fairs in 1958 and officially in 1959, has over 2,300 wins. He said he will make history by winning a race in seven decades.


He has broken 83 bones and has lost over 40,000 pounds in his career. Jones also said when he started racing in 1958, he was 5-foot-9. Now, he’s 5-2 and weighs 107 pounds.


“Now I look like a jockey,” he joked. “I don’t weigh anything.”


Jones has also ridden against the likes of Bill Hartack, Willie Shoemaker and others. He has raced one time this season _ on July 4 at Ellis _ finishing last aboard first-time starter Morato Cat.


“I had never had a chance,” he said.


Jones will have a chance today on My Kentucky Breeze, who is trained by Steve Fridley and owned by Ben Wessels of Crete, Ill.


She has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. In seven starts this season, My Kentucky Breeze has three seconds and a third and has earned $4,364 her last four starts at Fairmount (she has race five times here), she has three seconds and a third. For her career, My Kentucky Breeze has 19 starts with three seconds and three thirds has won $11,286.


“He’s fit enough and I have no qualms about riding him,” Wessels said by phone. “I know he’s going to try his hardest. I want to give him his best chance.”



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