By Sarah Welk Baynum
A love for horses is something, it seems, many people are innately born with. And for some, that love is fueled by watching a parent work with these incredible athletes.
“As far back as I can remember, as a little boy riding with my mom when we were taking my father to work at a training center called Maryland Farm in the town of Brentwood, Tennessee, I remember always loving horses,” said Ronald Jackson Sr.
Jackson also recalls with pride his father rubbing the 1961 champion 2-year-old colt Ridan, that later went on to finish third in the 1962 Kentucky Derby. Ridan is most remembered in defeat in the 1962 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, beaten by Jaipur by a fraction of a nose in track-record time.
The first horse Jackson rubbed as a child was Florida-bred London Company, a 1970 son of the famed Tom Rolfe. London Company went on a streak winning seven stakes in a row, all but one were graded company
“My father worked for Tom Jolley at that time, and later went on to work for Moody Jolley. Moody Jolley, a Thoroughbred racehorse owner, breeder, and trainer who was also the father of LeRoy Jolley – a Hall of Fame trainer,” Jackson added.
LeRoy Jolley trained two Kentucky Derby Winners just a few years apart from one another – Foolish Pleasure and Genuine Risk.
“My father was a groom for many good horses – including Foolish Pleasure who won the 1975 Kentucky Derby. Another horse he groomed was the filly Genuine Risk, a racehorse and then broodmare best known for winning the 1980 Kentucky Derby, beating out all the colts despite the odds. There was also What a Summer and For the Moment. My father most likely groomed more entries of horses in the Derby and grade one stakes races than any one groom, Jackson said.
Jackson’s father was so immersed in racing throughout the years, that in order to have family reunions, they would all just meet at the Kentucky Derby.
Years later, in 1976, Jackson says he lost the job he had working for a stable due to the bank taking horses from the owner. “I had a family at the time, too. I saw a recruiter and enlisted in the army shortly after,” Jackson said.
He went on to serve in Desert Storm and Desert Shield in 1990 becoming a platoon then staff sergeant. Jackson was also a petroleum instructor in the military until he finished his time in the army in 1997. After that, Jackson had a few different jobs before he landed on freight hauling and even purchased his own truck to haul.
Racehorses found their way back into Jackson’s life when an opportunity presented itself. Jackson began a career driving horse vans for a number of large horse hauler companies such as Lorraine Horse Transport and National Horse Transport. He even helped fly racehorses overseas.
“One day, I was sitting with LeRoy at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales, and I asked him, ‘Why did my daddy groom all your good horses?’ He then said something that will be with me the rest of my life. He described my father as one of the best horsemen he had ever met because of the way he could calm the horses down and get the best performance out of them,” Jackson said.
In 2014, while helping a local racehorse farm on a volunteer basis, the farm owner came to him with a racehorse who had bowed her tendon and made him an offer to partner on the mare and turn her into a broodmare.
“The mare’s owner had no interest in owning and managing a broodmare, so I took her on,” Jackson said.
He helped the mare recover and later bred her. It was the start of owning racehorses of his own.
“I always wanted to own my own horses. I just wish my father was here to be on this journey with me. I had the chance to become partners with the broodmare and after foaling of that mare I became full owner of the mare and her foals,” he said.
Jackson then acquired the owner’s entire breeding business, which led to him breeding, training, and racing his own horses from then on. He plans to get involved in horse sales next.
“I love the horse business and I love the horses – they all have such unique personalities,” Jackson said.
Return to Feb. 6 issue of Wire to Wire