Horseman of the Year

Warner L. Jones, Jr. Horseman of the Year Awards

Each year the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners recognizes a member who has achieved outstanding success in the industry, or otherwise distinguished themselves among their peers. The award was established in 1989 to honor members of the horse industry who display the spirit and passion for the sport exhibited by the late Warner L. Jones Jr., who built the Hermitage Farm of Goshen, Kentucky, into one of the world’s leading breeding farms, and who served for many years as chairman of the board at Churchill Downs.


2014 Horseman of the Year: Dr. A Gary Lavin

Dr. A. Gary Lavin, a legend in equine veterinary medicine and a respected leader in the horse industry in Kentucky and North America, is honored by Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners (KTO) as the recipient of the group’s 2014 “Warner L. Jones Horseman of the Year” award.

The Louisville-based KTO has presented the Warner L. Jones, Jr. Horseman of the Year Award annually since 1989. The honor is bestowed upon a member of the horse industry who displays the spirit and passion for the sport and industry exhibited by the late Warner L. Jones Jr., the famed Kentucky Thoroughbred breeder and horseman who was the owner and master of Hermitage Farm and also served as chairman of the board of Churchill Downs.

It is safe to say that this year’s honoree, the son of longtime Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park Racing Secretary Allan Lavin, has Kentucky’s horse industry in his blood. But rather than follow his father to the racing office, Gary Lavin was drawn to equine medical care and launched a lifelong career as a veterinary practitioner and surgeon following his 1962 graduation from the veterinary college at the University of Pennsylvania. His accomplishments in his chosen field resulted in honors that include the Bellwether Medal for Distinguished Leadership from his alma mater, recognition as a Distinguished Life Member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (“AAEP”) and designation as a Distinguished Practitioner of the Kentucky Association of Equine Practitioners.

Dr. Lavin, a past-president of the AAEP, is recognized for his service by that organization each year when it awards the Lavin Cup, an honor presented to a non-veterinary organization or individual that has “demonstrated exceptional compassion or developed and enforced rules and guidelines for the welfare of horses.”

His energy and passion have led Dr. Lavin to assume leadership roles in the horse industry in Kentucky and beyond. He work includes his current duties as a director of the Keeneland Association and vice chair of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. Other industry leadership roles include service as a steward of The Jockey Club and a trustee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association (“TOBA”) and the Breeders’ Cup Ltd.

The most recent honor accorded Dr. Lavin was his recent designation as one of three Honored Guests at the Thoroughbred Club of America’s Testimonial Dinner at Keeneland Race Course. Other honorees were Dr. Larry Bramlage and Dr. Edward H. Fallon.

Dr. Lavin and his family operate Longfield Farm in Goshen, Ky., which is located a short distance from Jones’ beloved Hermitage Farm.

Previous winners

Timeline of  Previous winners of the KTO Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award.

2013 - Jack Wolf

A principal with his wife Laurie in Starlight Racing, one of Thoroughbred racing’s most successful owner partnerships, Jack Wolf is also a leader in issues beyond the racetrack as a founder and board president of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (“TAA”). Under the leadership, Starlight Racing’s stars include two-time champion and Kentucky Oaks winner Ashado, 2012 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby and Grade I winner Harlan’s Holiday.

2012 - Ron Geary

A longtime racing fan, Geary purchased Henderson, Ky.’s Ellis Park in 2006 after serving 16 years as president and CEO of ResCare, a human services company named by Forbes as one of America’s 200 best small companies. Since his purchase of Ellis, Geary has worked diligently to improve facilities at his track and build its fan base.

2011 - Seth Hancock

Partner and manager of century-old Claiborne Farm, one of the world’s most prominent breeding and racing operations. At 23, Hancock negotiated the syndication of Triple Crown winner Secretariat and through four decades of leadership

2010 - Calvin Borel

Three-time winner rider in the Kentucky Derby and regular jockey aboard 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. A winner of nearly 5,000 career races, Borel is the second-leading rider in the history of Churchill Downs and has earned leading rider honors in Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana.

2009 - Hal Wiggins

Trainer of record-smashing 2009 Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner and eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Other stakes winners trained by Wiggins include $1 million earner Chorwon, Leo’s Gypsy Dancer and Morris Code.

2008 - Brereton C. Jones

Former governor of Kentucky, successful Thoroughbred breeder and owner-breeder of 2008 Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell. A powerful spokesman for Kentucky’s horse industry, Jones was a founding member and chairman of the Kentucky Equine Education Project (“KEEP”), an organization launched in 2004 to promote the state’s signature horse industry.

2007 - Carl Nafzger

Hall of Fame trainer of Unbridled, winner of the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic, and 2007 Kentucky Derby and Travers (GI) winner Street Sense. A onetime professional bull rider, Nafzger also trained champion filly Banshee Breeze and authored “Traits of a Winner,” a book on the art of training a Thoroughbred.

2006 - Thomas H. Meeker

President and CEO of Churchill Downs from 1984-2006 who led the historic track and its signature race, the Kentucky Derby, through a period of unparalleled growth.

2005 - John Asher

Vice President of Racing Communications at Churchill Downs and winner of five Eclipse Awards for “Outstanding National Radio Coverage of Thoroughbred Racing” at Louisville’s WHAS-AM and WAVG-AM.

2004 - Kenneth & Sarah Ramsey

Eclipse Award champion breeders of 2004 and owners of Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, the Ramseys have earned a record 13 “leading owner” titles at Churchill Downs and campaigned 2004 turf champion Kitten’s Joy, and 2005 Dubai World Cup winner Roses in May.

2003 - Dale Romans

The Louisville-born eight-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs and trainer of 2004 turf champion Kitten’s Joy and Roses in May, winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

2002 - Ken McPeek

The native of Lexington trained 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava and with his wife, Sue, was honored with the “Big Sport of Turfdom Award” by the Turf Publicists of America.

2001 - Jennie Rees

Two-time Eclipse Award recipient as turf writer for the Courier-Journal, five-time winner of the Red Smith Kentucky Derby Writing Contest, and a past president of the National Turf Writers Association.

2000 - James E. “Ted” Basset III

Past President and CEO of the Keeneland Association, Past President of the Breeders’ Cup, and past chairman of the World Racing Championship Series.

1999 - William S. Farish

A former United States Ambassador to Great Britain and former chairman of the board of Churchill Downs, Farish is the founder of Lane’s End Farm and one of the world’s best-known and influential horsemen.

1998 - Elliott Walden

Three-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs, two-time leader at Keeneland, and trainer of 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop.

1997 - James M. “Jim” Bolus

Pre-eminent Kentucky Derby historian and former secretary of the National Turf Writers Association.

1996 - Allen R. Paulson

Eclipse Award as outstanding breeder with more than 115 stakes winners that included two-time “Horse of the Year” Cigar.

1995 - D. Wayne Lukas

Hall of Fame trainer of four winners of the Kentucky Derby and trainer of a record 24 Eclipse Award champion that include three winners of Horse of the Year honors.

1994 - William. T. Young

Philanthropist and founder of Overbrook Farm, 1994 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding breeder, and owner/breeders of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone.

1993 - MacKenzie “MacK” Miller

Kentucky native and Hall of Fame trainer of 72 stakes winners that included 1993 Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Sea Hero.

1992 - Pat Day

A four-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey who has rode nine winners of Triple Crown races – including 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee, and is the all-time leading jockey at Churchill Downs.

1991 - Woodford C. “Woody” Stephens

Hall of Fame trainer of two Kentucky Derby winners and the winners of five consecutive renewals of the Belmont Stakes.

1990 - Arthur B. Hancock, III

Kentucky native and Hall of Fame trainer of nine Breeders’ Cup winners that include unbeaten champion Personal Ensign.

1989 - Claude “Shug” McGaughey III

Kentucky native and Hall of Fame trainer of nine Breeders’ Cup winners that include unbeaten champion Personal Ensign.