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Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra and Curlin, dies at age 81

April 21, 2011 | 10:02 am

Los Angeles native Jess Jackson, owner of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, has died at age 81 due to complications from cancer, according to Caroline Shaw, chief communications officer at Jackson Family Wines.

In a 2008 column, The Times' Bill Dwyre described the billionaire winemaker's decision to retire from that business in his early 70s to venture into another longtime passion:

What does a guy do who can recall the "wonderful charm of the Bing Crosby days at Del Mar racetrack?" Or who loves to talk about seeing Seabiscuit and Silky Sullivan?

What indeed?

He goes into horse racing. He buys horses, buys farms to breed them and raise them. He gets one of the best trainers in the world, Steve Asmussen, to prepare them so he can race them. He spends gobs of money, knowing full well it may be years before he gets any back.

And then, if he is Jess Jackson, he hits the jackpot.

Perhaps Jackson's biggest success in racing came after that column was written, when Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years and proceeded to defeat the boys in the Haskell Invitational and the Woodward Stakes.

Jackson was also outspoken on the topic of reform in racing and won the Sportsman of the Year 2008 Insider Award, according to his obituary on the website of Kendall-Jackson winery, the winery he founded. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Banke, five children and two grandchildren.


Liam Durbin's Hollywood Park handicap

Rachel Alexandra is pregnant, foal expected in 2012

-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Jess Jackson in 2005. Credit: Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times