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Preakness, Belmont Winning Trainer Jacobs Dies at 89

John Jacobs won the '70 Preakness with Personality and '70 Belmont with High Echelon.

John Jacobs with Flag Raiser

John Jacobs with Flag Raiser

BloodHorse Library

John W. Jacobs, son of Hall of Fame trainer Hirsch Jacobs, died April 10 at the age of 89.

Jacobs began working full-time as an assistant trainer for his father in 1957 and gradually took on more responsibility as his father grew ill in the early 1960s. Entering 1970, Jacobs had a pair of quality 3-year-olds being primed for the spring classics, Personality and High Echelon.

As his father's health declined that winter, Jacobs visited him at the hospital and told him about Personality's success. The elder Jacobs had trained both Personality's sire, Hail to Reason, and his dam, Affectionately. During the visit, Hirsch whispered to his son, "It's a blinkers family."

Hirsch Jacobs died in February 1970 and Personality, now sporting a pair of blinkers, would help the younger Jacobs carry on his memory with a sensational year.

Despite all of his accomplishments, Hirsch had never won a Triple Crown race. His son now had the chance to do just that. Personality had become a leading contender for the series after winning the Wood Memorial, and High Echelon built a solid résumé as a 2-year-old.

High Echelon would finish third to Dust Commander in the Kentucky Derby while Personality finished eighth. Two weeks later, Personality rebounded with a victory in the Preakness Stakes.

After winning the Jersey Derby, Personality developed a sinus infection and fever just before the Belmont Stakes and was scratched. However, High Echelon flourished at the longer distance and won the Belmont, giving Jacobs two victories in the 1970 Triple Crown.

They meant everything to Jacobs and his family. Winning two Triple Crown races with two of the last horses his father had worked with was a dream fulfilled for the family. Jacobs often said that the victories were not for his dad, but were his dad's.

Personality would go on to win the Woodward Stakes against his elders and was named Horse of the Year by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

Personality
Photo: Keeneland Library Raftery Turfotos Collection
Personality

Jacobs continued training for owners such as George Steinbrenner and Nelson Bunker Hunt. He also trained for his sister, Patrice Wolfson, and her husband, Louis, of Harbor View Farm.

However, after nearly two decades of training, Jacobs felt it was time to move on and do something different with his life. Jacobs married his wife, Barbara, in 1974 and the following year, after getting his sister settled with a new trainer, Laz Barrera, Jacobs officially retired from training.

Having spent time in Germany as part of the U.S. Army Medical Corps after college, he developed a love for travel while visiting some of Europe's most prestigious stud farms. He combined his desire to travel with his love for horses by entering the bloodstock business.

Jacobs had an eye for horses and would follow horses in training looking for stallion prospects. Through his new career, Jacobs was able to travel the world, visiting South America, Europe, Australia, and South Africa while on business. He also served as an agent for a large Japanese bloodstock agency.

Jacobs suffered a stroke in 2002 that limited his ability to move around the sales at the level he desired. Retiring to South Florida, Jacobs never lost his love for the sport and kept up with racing on television and through updates from Bill Hirsch, who would communicate with retired horsemen in the Miami area by sending news and organizing events.

Known for his "calm in the storm" attitude, Jacobs would rather hear about you than talk about himself. Jacobs will be remembered by those who knew him for his caring nature, sense of fairness, genuineness, honesty, and unqualified love for his family and friends.