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Gary F. Jones

Gary Jones
Gary F. Jones
Induction Year: 
June 16, 1944, Long Beach, Calif.
Career Years: 
Number of Starters: 
Number of Winners: 

Tab Wrapper


Gary Jones began his career as a racehorse trainer by sending out King Wako on opening day at Santa Anita in 1975. The horse won, setting the tone for a remarkable run by Jones that closed the same way it began — with a win.


On April 22, 1996, Jones saddled Ski Dancer to a win in the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes at Santa Anita and then called it quits, citing health concerns.


Jones won his first race, his last race and 1,463 others during a career in which horses he trained won $52,672,611 in purses. He won 102 graded stakes and 233 overall stakes with 104 stakes-winning horses. A fixture on the California circuit, Jones won 15 training titles at Del Mar, Hollywood Park and Santa Anita Park.


Almost 40 years since he won his first race, Jones received racing’s highest honor — induction into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame.


“It’s an amazing honor and it’s pretty overwhelming to think of the company I am joining,” said Jones, who retired at the age of 51. “Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is beyond any dreams I ever had. I am truly humbled.”


One of the horses Jones was best known for was Best Pal, a 2010 Hall of Fame inductee. Brought together in the summer of 1991, Jones and Best Pal won eight stakes together, six of which were graded. Best Pal finished his career with 18 wins and more than $5.6 million in earnings from 47 lifetime races.


“He was really special,” Jones said of Best Pal. “He’s a big reason I’m getting into the Hall of Fame.”


Jones, who turned 70 before his Hall of Fame induction, was born in Southern California and continues to live there, just a short distance from Del Mar, with his wife of 47 years, Joan. His father, Farrell, was a prominent trainer who holds the track record at Del Mar with 11 meet training titles. Gary Jones broke his father’s record by winning 47 races at Santa Anita in 1976, three more than the standard set by the elder Jones.


“Ever since I was little all I wanted to do was train horses,” Jones said. “It’s all I ever thought of. I was an assistant to my dad for the last 10 years of his career and when I became a head trainer I was fortunate to get some good owners and good horses to work with.”


In Southern California, Jones ranks sixth all-time in wins (576) and seventh in stakes victories (72) at Santa Anita and is 13th in wins (463) and 10th in stakes victories (58) at the now-closed Hollywood Park.


Thirty of Jones’ stakes wins came in Grade 1 races, including the signature handicap in California, the Santa Anita Handicap, with Best Pal and Stuka; and the 1993 Santa Monica Handicap with Freedom Cry, ridden by fellow 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Alex Solis.


Aside from Best Pal, Jones also trained such notable horses as 1986 Champion Older Male Turkoman, world record-holders Kostrama and Time to Explode, as well as Quiet American, Lakeway, By Land by Sea and Wishing Well, the dam of 1996 Hall of Famer Sunday Silence.


Jones began to slow down as a trainer early in 1993 when he had a heart attack at the age of 49. His son, Marty, took over as the stable’s head trainer in 1996 when Jones decided to retire.


“It was hard to walk away, but I knew it was the best decision for me,” Jones said. “My father had a heart attack at 52 and my doctor said I would probably end up killing myself if I continued on. It was the right move. I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I don’t have any regrets.”