Jess Jackson dead at age 81

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Stonestreet Stables owner Jess Jackson, whose headquarters campaigned Horses of the Year Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, died at home Thursday in Geyserville, Calif., from complications due to cancer. He was 81.

Jackson's death was announced in a statement issued by his Kendall-Jackson Winery.

Jackson first raced thoroughbreds in the 1960s as a partner with his uncle, Dr. I.B. Ballenger, and returned more seriously in 2003.

He quickly developed the reputation as a high-rolling auction purchaser; in 2004 he spent almost $22 million at the Keeneland November sale alone to buy 95 horses. He also became known as an iconoclast who was not afraid to challenge issues he saw in the thoroughbred sales world.

In 2005, he sued three of his former bloodstock advisers, alleging fraud and breach of fiduciary duties. Among the allegations in the suit were that the agents had defrauded him by inflating the prices of horses they sold to Jackson and taking secret commissions from sellers on Jackson's purchases.

The suit led Jackson to lobby the Kentucky legislature for a new law designed to combat undisclosed dual agency -- the practice of a single agent representing both sides of an equine transaction without disclosing the fact to the buyer and seller. That resulted in a 2006 law in the state explicitly outlawing the practice in horse sales.

Also in 2005, he acquired the former Buckram Oak Farm near Lexington and made it the Kentucky headquarters for his growing thoroughbred racing and breeding empire. He named it Stonestreet after his own middle name. The farm is now the home of Rachel Alexandra.

Jackson and partner Hal McCormick bought Rachel Alexandra, a Medaglia d'Oro filly, after her 20-length victory in the 2009 Kentucky Oaks.

For them, she went on to win the Preakness Stakes, Haskell Invitational, Mother Goose and Woodward en route to her 2009 Horse of the Year title. She is now in foal to Curlin.

Jackson partnered with Padua Stables and George Bolton to buy Curlin privately after he won his first race by more than 12 lengths. The Smart Strike colt went on to win seven Grade 1 races, including the 2007 Preakness and 2008 Dubai World Cup, and was voted Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008. Jackson later bought out his partners and now stands Curlin at Lane's End Farm.

On Monday, Jackson withdrew his colt Astrology from next month's Kentucky Derby, saying in a statement that he would point the colt for the Jerome Handicap instead. Jackson owned Astrology with Bolton.