June 15--HENDERSON, Ky. -- Author Angie Karcher was faced with condensing the colorful life of local jockey Cowboy Jones into a 48-page book.
"The Legendary R.A. "Cowboy" Jones, a biography of the Ellis Park legend who has been winning races for six decades, has just been released by MT Publishing in Evansville.
Karcher, who had written another project for the publisher, was brought in to write Jones' story. Karcher said her job was to "narrow down" Jones' life. "He has so many stories. He's had quite a life," she said.
Jones was born in Herrin, Ill., on the table that now sits in the dining room of Jones' Washington Street home in Henderson.
Through more than 50 years of racing thoroughbreds, Jones' charasmatic personality made him the most popular figure in the history of Ellis Park.
Jones played up the cowboy personnae with his boots and 10-gallon hats, but his first nickname was "Scratchy." That monicker was a complement to his older brother Richard, who took on the nickname "Itchy." Itchy Jones is a successful former college baseball coach at Southern Ilinois and Illinois.
"Neither of his parents had much education, but they wanted their children to be successful," Karcher said.
"All I ever wanted to do was ride a horse," Jones said. He saved up enough money from a newspaper route to buy his first horse, Luigi, when he was 15 years old.
Jones wasn't yet Cowboy Jones when he won his first race as a 16-year-old in 1959 in Park Jefferson in South Dakota.
The famaliar nickname came a few years later during a television interview with famed track announcer Chic Anderson. Jones told Anderson, "I always wanted to be a cowboy."
Unbenownest to Jones, Anderson started calling him Cowboy Jones. The name stuck.
Life away from the track made Jones just as popular with the fans, whether it was his ventures as a tomoato farmer, the restaurant and insurance businesses or the familiar sight of the jockey driving around Henderson in one of his big Cadillacs.
Last summer, Jones tried to make history but ended up making the biggest headlines of his career. The 71-year-old desired to become the only known jockey in the United States to have won a race in seven different decades. He rode even-money favorite My Kentucky Breeze in a race for maiden claimers at Fairmount Park in Illinois. Even though Jones and My Kentucky Breeze finished second, an owner of one of the horses thought something was up. So did the stewards, who handed out a 60-day suspension to another jockey whose actions led them to believe the race was fixed to allow Jones to win.
"He was open and honest with me about that incident," Karcher said. "If there was something going on, he didn't have any inkling about it."
Despite 83 broken bones in his career, Jones is still working toward a chance at one more win. While he does, he continues to exercise horses regularly. "He still works out horses every day that Ellis Park is open," Karcher said.
The book is available online at mtpublishing.com and amazon.com as well as Barnes and Noble in Evansville, where Karcher will have a book signing July 19 at 1 p.m.
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