Lexington, KY —Harnessracing.com is reporting that horseman Jay Sears, a consummate horseman and father of Hall of Fame driver Brian Sears, died Sunday night at age 78. Mr. Sears, who lived on a farm in Osteen, Fla., on the St. John’s River, had been working on his farm just days earlier.
Mr. Sears was the son of horseman Gene Sears and followed in his father’s footsteps. After graduating from high school in Indianapolis, Ind., Mr. Sears began working for his father full-time, before moving on to a groom’s position for trainer Joe O’Brien. Mr. Sears went out on his own in 1961, and it was in that year he drove his first winner at Monticello Raceway. At age 22 in 1963, he became one of the youngest ever to drive a two-minute mile when he won with Georgia Red in 2:00 at Hollywood Park.
Mr. Sears’ career then flourished, as he set up shop at Vernon Downs in the summer months and Pompano Park in the winter, where his children, Brian and daughter Jennifer, attended schools.
While Mr. Sears raced many stakes colts in the prime of his career, in the later years of his life he and his second wife, Kim, concentrated on Florida-breds and campaigned many “Sunshine” stakes winners. In addition, in 2007-2008 Mr. Sears developed the pacing filly Native Bride, who in 2008 won the Garnsey Memorial, Matron and a Breeders Crown elimination. Native Bride was driven by his son, Brian, putting the father-son in the winner’s circle together.
Mr. Sears was inducted into the Florida Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1992. His father, Gene, joined him three years later in 1995.
Mr. Sears also was active as a leader in the Florida harness racing community, serving as president of the Florida Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association. Mr. Sears was elected to the U.S. Trotting Association Board of Directors in 1992 and served 23 years before retiring in 2015.