Legendary jockey ‘Cowboy Jones’ passes away
HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - Officials with Ellis Park confirm Robert A. “Cowboy” Jones has died.
Jones passed away early Monday morning at the age of 79. He had been in hospice in Henderson.
The popular jockey began racing at Ellis Park in 1959 and had a 50-year career.
Cowboy Jones lived for horse racing. The Henderson native’s life revolved around the sport.
“There’s probably not words enough to describe what he meant to Ellis Park,” Jones’ daughter, Kaci said. “I know he was their leading jockey for a long time and will probably always be.”
“He started out riding the bush tracks over in Illinois, the county fairs and stuff,” longtime horse trainer John Hancock said. “Made his way to Kentucky.”
The popular Ellis Park jockey began his racing career way back in 1959, and he flourished in the saddles for over 50 years.
“The best way to describe him was a blueblood Kentuckian, and Southern Illinois,” Hancock said. “Cowboy had a very big heart. He loved kids.”
“My whole house is full of pictures,” Kaci said. “So I’m a very proud daughter.”
Cowboy rode his first winner in his inaugural year, and went on to win races in six different decades. Excelling in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, he was perennially one of the leading riders at Ellis Park.
“If you walk inside the jock’s room and look over to the right, there’s a sign there that says, ‘Home of R.A. Cowboy Jones,’ and I’ll promise you that sign will hang there from now on,” Hancock said. “When he was good, he was really good. Cowboy was one of the best in his early days, one of the best in Kentucky.”
Cowboy was so popular that Ellis Park had a bobblehead giveaway with his caricature, and when he later wrote a book about his life and career in 2014, it became a huge hit.
“Anywhere we go, ‘Cowboy Jones, Cowboy Jones, can you sign this? Hey, I have a shirt, I have this picture, can you sign it?’ It was like I was walking around with a celebrity,” Kaci said.
Everyone around the track agreed that Cowboy will be sorely missed.
“He was a very good guy,” Sheri Romero, Mutuel Manager at Ellis Park said. “I mean, he’s well-known. Anytime he came into the track, people knew who he was.”
“I’ve had so many people reach out to me and tell me that they miss him and tell me what they meant to him,” Kaci said.
“Cowboy was family to everybody,” Hancock said. “He never met a stranger on the backside. He just enjoyed the racetrack life.”
Kaci tells 14 Sports that funeral arrangements are still pending, but she thinks there will be some kind of service in a few weeks.
Ellis Park is also wanting to honor Cowboy sometime during the upcoming summer meet.
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