Former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones, who with wife Libby developed Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky., has died at the age of 84, according to a Tweet from current Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear.
Born June 27, 1939, in Ohio and raised in West Virginia, Jones followed his father – a state senator – into West Virginia politics, winning election to the House of Delegates as a Republican in 1964 at the age of 25. He had graduated a few years earlier from the University of Virginia, where he attended on a football scholarship.
Operating a small horse farm in West Virginia, Jones would begin making trips to Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., where he met Elizabeth “Libby” Lloyd. The two married in 1970. They opened Airdrie Stud on property adjacent to where his bride grew up and developed the farm into a major force in the Thoroughbred industry. Airdrie began as a 350-acre leased farm into one encompassing approximately 2,500 acres.
Jones returned to the political arena after moving to Kentucky and switching to the Democratic Party, winning election as lieutenant governor in 1987 and governor in 1991. One of his primary goals as governor was to improve health care for uninsured Kentuckians. He also helped in the development of a breeders fund for Kentucky-bred horses. By a law then in place, Jones was limited to one term in office, a law he helped change for future office holders.
Jones was a founding member of the Breeders’ Cup, playing an important role as a mediator in its earliest days when the concept developed by John Gaines was in jeopardy of falling apart over differences among various parties. He later advocated for and helped create the Kentucky Equine Education Project, which cast a wide net to promote all horse breeds in every county of the commonwealth.
Jones bred, raised or owned numerous stakes winners and stood top stallions at Airdrie. Among his greatest accomplishments was winning the Kentucky Oaks on three occasions with homebreds Proud Spell in 2008 and Believe You Can in 2012, and with Lovely Maria in 2015.
His ability to listen and work with people on both sides of the political aisle led to an outpouring of tributes from Republicans and Democrats alike following his passing. His positive impact on the horse industry will be felt for years to come.
Jones is survived by his wife, son Bret and daughter Lucy. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.
The Kentucky Equine Education Project released the following statement: The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) mourns the loss of Governor Brereton Jones. Governor Jones, a visionary leader in Kentucky’s equine industry, helped create KEEP in 2004 and served as chairman of KEEP’s Board of Directors until 2011.
During his tenure as chairman, Governor Jones worked tirelessly to promote Kentucky’s horse industry. His dedication led to critical policy changes and initiatives that directly benefited horse owners, breeders, trainers, and enthusiasts across the state.
Under his leadership, KEEP worked with the state legislature to create the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund and the establishment of historical horse racing in the Commonwealth. These programs have significantly contributed to the current success of Kentucky’s horse industry.
“Governor Brereton Jones was a true champion for Kentucky’s horse industry,” said Case Clay, current chairman of KEEP. “His legacy will forever be felt in our organization and throughout the entire equine community. We are deeply saddened by his loss and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family during this difficult time.”
Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin: “Brereton Jones was widely respected for his leadership and integrity, serving the Thoroughbred industry as a statesman and visionary and the Commonwealth of Kentucky as Governor and Lieutenant Governor. His passion for horses and the land knew no bounds and culminated in his beloved Airdrie Stud, which for more than 50 years has been one of the world’s foremost breeding operations. He believed in racing and worked tirelessly to improve our sport as a founding member of Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Equine Education Project, a member of The Jockey Club and by championing formation of the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund.
“At Keeneland, we will remember Gov. Jones fondly as a breeder, owner, consignor and buyer of the highest caliber, and for being a valued member of our Advisory Board. We will celebrate his life and contributions, and the tremendous legacy he leaves behind.
“On behalf of Keeneland, we extend our deepest condolences to Gov. Jones’ wife, Libby; his children, Bret and Lucy; his grandchildren B, Jack, Thomas and Wende; and the entire Airdrie Stud family.”
Statement from Breeders’ Cup Ltd: Breeders’ Cup Limited and the Thoroughbred racing community are profoundly saddened by the passing of former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones.
A Founding Member of the Breeders’ Cup, Governor Jones served as Treasurer on the Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors from 1984-86 before transitioning to Director from 1988-89, during which he also served as Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky. He was then elected Governor of Kentucky, a term he fulfilled with distinction from 1991-1995. Following his term as Governor, during which he materially advanced the Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky and abroad for generations to come, he returned to the Breeders’ Cup as a Director from 1996-2005. His support for the organization remained unwavering through the following years as he continued to serve as a Member of the Breeders’ Cup.
Governor Jones, along with his wife Libby, founded Airdrie Stud near Midway, Ky., a highly successful Thoroughbred breeding operation now managed by their son, Bret Jones. Seventeen horses bred by Governor Jones participated in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, including Carl Pollard’s Caressing, winner of the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Churchill Downs. His homebred Proud Spell finished second in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) before launching a 3-year-old campaign that saw her win the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), Kentucky Oaks (G1), Delaware Oaks (G2), and Alabama Stakes (G1) en route to champion 3-year-old filly honors in 2008.
“Governor Jones’ passion for Thoroughbred racing and breeding was second to none,” said Drew Fleming, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited. “Not only did he position Breeders’ Cup for long-term success as a Founding Member, but as Governor of Kentucky he tirelessly promoted the Thoroughbred industry while simultaneously building a legacy that will live on through Airdrie Stud. We are forever grateful for his contributions to our sport and send our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”
Rick Hiles, president of the Kentucky HBPA: “Brereton Jones was a true champion for the horse-racing industry at all levels for decades. Yes, he was an owner and breeder himself, but he also understood how vital the breeding and racing industries are for the economy and tourism throughout the state and not just Central Kentucky and Louisville.
“Gov. Jones served the state of Kentucky well. He was a great horseman, was great for the industry and bred and raced a lot of great horses. It was so fitting that he won the Kentucky Oaks three times — like a well-deserved lifetime achievement award that kept multiplying. On a personal note, we were longtime friends – I even trained a horse or two for him. He was just so friendly and respectful of everyone at the racetrack, whether they ran the track or mucked out stalls. He will be sorely missed.”