Hermitage’s Bill Landes Honored As Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman Of The Year

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ 2018 Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award doesn’t just honor the late founder of Oldham County’s Hermitage Farm. This year the prestigious award also recognizes Jones’ long-time chief lieutenant: Bill Landes, who has worked for Hermitage for 41 years, including almost a quarter-century as general manager.

Landes is the featured honoree at the KTO’s 31st annual awards gala Saturday, Nov. 17 at the Kentucky Derby Museum, 704 Central Avenue adjacent to Churchill Downs. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m. ET, with dinner at 7. Tickets are available for $125, including dinner and drinks, by contacting Marlene Meyer at 502-458-5820.

The Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion exemplified by Jones, who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence. Jones was the inaugural winner in 1988, six years before his death.

“It means everything,” Landes said. “Nov. 1, 1977, I walked into the office as an employee. I started out about two years earlier as a boarding client with a mare at Mr. Jones’. I took a year off from the practice of law to learn the horse business. And forty-one years later, here I sit.

“You don’t know what this award means to me, because I wouldn’t know half the people, have half the contacts, had half the fun in the thoroughbred business without Mr. Jones. He taught me not only about horses — and I learned a lot about the horse business — but he taught me a lot about people. More importantly, he taught me about community, the local community. So many things he impressed upon me. There are a lot of truly great horsemen and great people who have won this award before me. But for me to have worked with Mr. Jones, known him and as family as well as I did, gosh, I can’t express in words what it means.”

Landes grew up in York, Pa., purchased his first racehorse while in college at Susquehanna University and won his first race at Penn National in 1972. By that time, he already was attending the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law because of its proximity to horse country.

Hermitage Farm has been his sole employer in the horse business. Landes has served the farm through three ownerships, officially becoming general manager when Carl Pollard purchased the farm upon the death of Jones in 1994 and currently for Louisville power couple Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson.

Landes said he never had a job title with Jones.

“I was in his den, and he said, ‘Bill, I could really use you,’” Landes recalled. “I said, ‘Mr. Jones, what do you want me to do?’ ‘Bill, I want you to do whatever I want you to do.’ Let me tell you, there was nothing ever written. I was his right-hand man. I described myself as a fly on the wall — and boy, did I ever learn.”

While it only seems that Landes must have been around when Jones bred 1953 Derby winner Dark Star and 1967 Kentucky Oaks winner Nancy Jr., he was there when Jones became the first and so far only breeder of a Kentucky Derby, Oaks and Breeders’ Cup winner when Is It True won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1988. Landes was involved when Hermitage sold Seattle Dancer at Keeneland for $13.1 million in 1985 – a world record for a yearling. He was Jones’ top aide when the farm stood leading stallion Raja Baba and bred champions Rousillon, Woodman and Northern Trick.

During Pollard’s ownership, Hermitage bred and sold West Coast, the 2017 Travers and Pennsylvania Derby winner who finished third in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic to be voted 3-year-old champion.

Few farm managers or general managers are as active in industry leadership roles off the farm as Landes, who was honored as the 2017 Ted Bates Farm Manager of the Year by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club.

Landes is chair of the increasingly important Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund advisory committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and serves on Churchill Downs’ horsemen’s racing committee. He is a past president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders and of the LaGrange Rotary Club.

“We name an award for the man who is so behind everything we do in the industry, the breeder we all aspire to do,” KTO president Chris Murphy said of Jones. “Yet you still need somebody who is there, who takes care of everything day in and day out. I don’t want to say unsung hero, but we tend to look at recipients who are exceptional trainers, exceptional breeders, owners. We forget about the people who make it happen — who take care of our horses, our farms and just make sure the whole system runs smoothly.

“We thought it would be fitting to honor someone who really is the glue to keep the entire industry together. Bill needs to be recognized for everything he’s done.”

Landes and wife Sally own Greystone Farm near Hermitage, their breeding and racing operation having produced graded-stakes winner Roxelana. They have two daughters: Dr. Sarah Landes, a gastroenterology specialist, and Laura Landes, research grants coordinator for U of L’s School of Medicine.

The post Hermitage’s Bill Landes Honored As Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman Of The Year appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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