Day At The Track

Jack Bailey, driving champion, dead at 81

04:28 AM 18 Aug 2014 NZST
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Jack Bailey, harness racing
Jack Bailey
USTA/Ed Keys photo

Vernon, NY --- Jack B. Bailey, 81, Vernon Downs' all-time harness racing driving champion, died Aug. 16, 2014, after a long illness.   

Vernon Downs has lost a talented, dynamic driver and a legendary horseman. It’s the end of an era for a Hall of Fame horseman who reigned supreme during the years 1959-1978 and ranked among the Standard bred sport’s leaders in races won, fast miles and money earnings.

In addition to his Vernon success, Mr. Bailey who began his harness career at the Downs in 1955, captured his initial Vernon championship in 1959.  The North Carolina-native went on to win driving titles at Hollywood Park in California, Washington Park in Illinois and at New York’s Batavia Downs. He remains Vernon’s all-time driving champion with 16 titles (12 percentages and four dash-winning).  He established a Vernon season’s high standard of 205 victories in 1977, which still stands.

He was a member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame and the Upstate New York Chapter of the U. S. Harness Writers’ Association Hall of Fame, as well as a multiple nominee to the sport's Hall of Fame in Goshen.

His favorite horse was the pacer Bye Bye Max, who stood at stud at the Bailey Farm in Vernon following his outstanding racing career. He also stood the successful pacer J J’s Biltmore at the farm.

Although racetrack injuries shortened Mr. Bailey’s brilliant career, he still managed to record 3,323 driving victories (currently ranked 205 on the sport’s all-time list).  He retired from active competition in the early 1990s.

Mr. Bailey is survived by his wife, Madeline; sons, Jim (Tammi), Bill (Ann), Jeffrey (Amy), daughter, Jaclyn; grandchildren, Sheena, Nicole, Sarah, Jack, Phoenix, Leon, Ian, Jamie, Jim, one sister, Nancy Myers and several great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Jack was predeceased by one son Jack L. and one daughter Deborah.

Calling hours will be in Vernon at Malecki’s Funeral Home, 23 Front Street on Monday (Aug. 18) from 5-8 p.m., with burial on Tuesday (Aug. 19) at 11:30 a.m. in the area’s Maple Grove Cemetery.

Jim Moran

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