Jack Bailey, Vernon Downs’ all-time driving champion, dies

by Jim Moran

Vernon, NY — Jack Bailey, 81, Vernon Downs’ all-time driving champion, died Aug. 16, 2014, after a long illness.

USTA/Ed Keys photo

Jack Bailey died Aug. 16, 2014, after a long illness.

Vernon Downs has lost a talented, heroic 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 Standardbred sport’s leaders in races won, fast miles and money earnings.

In addition to his Vernon success, Mr. Bailey won 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 percentage 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. He retired from active competition in the early 1990s.

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

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

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