JONES CALLS SANTA ANITA ‘HOME,’ SOLIS LOBBIES ON BEHALF OF BENEFACTOR MEL STUTE ON HRTV
ARCADIA, Calif. (April 25, 2014)–Friday morning’s Hall of Fame announcements from Saratoga Springs, New York, were met enthusiastically by horsemen, fans and management at Santa Anita Park, as news spread that Santa Anita “alums” trainer Gary Jones and jockey Alex Solis will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame on Aug. 8.
Jones, a two-time winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, with Best Pal in 1992 and Stuka in 1994, was a four-time leading trainer at Santa Anita’s Winter Meet and he ranks eighth on the track’s all-time win list with 576 victories. He’s also eighth all-time by number of stakes wins, with 72. The Long Beach, California native won a total of 15 overall training titles in Southern California.
Jones, who retired due to health reasons in 1996, has been succeeded in the business by his son, Marty, who is currently one of Southern California’s top trainers. Gary Jones, 69, and his wife of 47 years, Joan, also have a son, Davey, who is an attorney based in Sherman Oaks. Jones and his wife currently reside in Del Mar.
“This is really the ultimate,” said Jones by phone from his home in Del Mar. “Santa Anita is home to me. It’s where I met my wife, it’s where I came from. I also want to congratulate Alex. He’s a great rider and we won a lot of races together. We won a Grade I with Freedom Cry in the (1993) Santa Monica (Handicap).”
Marty Jones, when reached by phone this morning on the Santa Anita backstretch, was understandably elated.
“I couldn’t be more excited and proud of both my mom and dad,” he said. “It’s just a really special day and I’m looking forward to going back with them to Saratoga this summer.”
Jones’s late father, Farrell (Wild Horse) Jones, was an eight-time leading trainer at Santa Anita and amassed 413 victories prior to retiring in 1975.
A Panamanian native, Solis, 50, came to California full-time from Florida in 1985 and quickly stepped onto the national stage courtesy of retired trainer Melvin Stute, who legged him up for eight graded stakes wins aboard California-bred Snow Chief, including the 1985 Norfolk Stakes, ’85 Hollywood Futurity, and 1986’s Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby, Preakness and Jersey Derby.
A winner of 16 riding titles in Southern California, he was a three-time leading rider at Santa Anita’s Winter Meet. Solis prevailed in a three-way photo in winning his first title in 1992, winning 100 races to Eddie Delahoussaye’s 98 and Kent Desormeaux’s 97. Solis ranks sixth all-time at Santa Anita in both stakes and total races won with 151 and 1,354, respectively.
Through Thursday, Solis ranked 26th on racing’s all-time win list with 4,986 career victories and his purse money-won of $234,994,221 put him 10th all-time.
A winner of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1997, Solis’s class was on display when interviewed live on HRTV Friday morning, as he was quick to assert that Stute, who has been nominated to the Hall of Fame a number of times, is also well deserving of induction into racing’s ultimate fraternity.
“Snow Chief was one of my best horses, actually my ‘big horse,’ thank you to the guy (Mel Stute) that hopefully should be inducted into the Hall of Fame soon,” Solis said. “He gave me my best chance and my first big horse.”
In addition to Snow Chief in 1986, Solis won the Santa Anita Derby again in 2006 with Brother Derek. He is also a three-time Breeders’ Cup winner, the 2000 Sprint aboard the Bruce Headley-conditioned Kona Gold, the 2003 Turf at Santa Anita aboard the Richard Mandella-trained Johar, and the 2003 Classic aboard Mandella’s Pleasantly Perfect.