Aaron Jones, one of the most high-profile Thoroughbred owners and breeders of the past 40 years with his wife Marie, died on Monday of heart failure at his home in Eugene, Ore., according to a spokesperson for the family. Jones was 93.
Jones, a native of Texas who made a fortune in lumber in his adopted state of Oregon, bred or campaigned multiple champions, including Ashado, Speightstown, Riboletta, Lemhi Gold, and Tiffany Lass. Ashado was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, a decade after she won on the same Breeders’ Cup program as Speightstown, giving the couple the rare double of having bred two Breeders’ Cup winners on the same program.
The Joneses also bred Drosselmeyer, winner of the 2010 Belmont Stakes and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic. By then, the Joneses had wound down their racing operation, but they remained active in breeding, maintaining a broodmare band of approximately 20 mares in Central Kentucky that annually produced yearlings for the industry’s leading auction venues, consigned by Taylor Made Farm, their longtime advisor.
Jones first entered the Thoroughbred business in 1971, the year he married Marie, by buying weanlings and broodmares, a signal of the couple’s long-term commitment to the sport. They had nearly immediate success on the Southern California circuit, with the stakes winners La Zanzara and Miss Musket, both trained by Charlie Whittingham.
Emboldened by that early success, in 1974 Jones famously issued a challenge to the owners of the filly Chris Evert to meet Miss Musket in a match race that would pit the best filly on the West Coast against the best filly on the East Coast. The owners each put up $100,000, and Hollywood Park, site of the race, put up $150,000. Unfortunately for Jones, Chris Evert beat Miss Musket by 50 lengths.
Following a major health scare in the late 1980s, the Joneses decided to disperse their breeding and racing stock in 1990. However, the couple returned to racing in 1996, and four years later campaigned Brazilian-bred Riboletta, who won five Grade 1 stakes in 2000 before being named champion older female.
The Joneses also campaigned Forestry, who became a leading sire. Among their breeding interests were shares in other major stallions such as Unbridled’s Song, Tiznow, Distorted Humor, and Candy Ride.
Jones served in the Pacific as an officer during World War II. He returned to Oregon after the war to finish his degree at the University of Oregon, and shortly thereafter founded his lumber business.
Services are pending, the family spokesperson said.