By Bill Finley
Jerry Bailey, whose varied career in the sport included stints as a veterinarian, breeder, owner, pinhooker and consignor, passed away Dec. 17 due to complications from pneumonia after a bout with COVID-19. He was 78.
Bailey started out on the racetrack as a veterinarian and took a position as the resident veterinarian for E.K. Gaylord's Lazy E Ranch in Oklahoma, later adding the role of general manager to his duties.
He moved to Florida in the late eighties and partnered with Ken Ellenberg to start Bailey Ellenberg Select, a partnership that focused on pinhooking. Ellenberg and Bailey bought eventual 1995 Grade I Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch (Gulch) for $40,000 at the Keeneland July yearling sale with the intent to sell him a year later. They had a $125,000 reserve on him at the Keeneland April sale as a 2-year-old, but the bidding stopped at $120,000. After selling a 50% interest in him to Howard Rozin, they campaigned Thunder Gulch through his first three career starts before selling him privately to Michael Tabor.
Bailey would later partner with Lance Robinson, and the two started Gulf Coast Farms. It was another pinhooking operation, but they also got involved in breeding. Their biggest success story as a breeder was Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike). Consigned by Bailey, he was sold for $475,000 as a 2-year-old at the Keeneland April sale. The winner of the 2010 GI Preakness S., he was named champion 2-year-old in 2009 and champion 3-year-old in 2010.
Bailey was involved with many top horses over the years. He consigned Grade I winners Honour and Glory (Relaunch), Deputy Commander (Deputy Minister), Henny Hughes (Hennessy) and Dubai Escapade (Awesome Again). Dubai Escapade sold for $2 million at the 2004 Barretts 2-year-old sale.
About 10 years ago, Bailey retired from the Thoroughbred game and moved back to his native Oklahoma. While there, he focused on roping competitions.
“Roping to him was what golf is to others,” said his widow, Leslie. “He roped every day there was. He just won a roping competition about five days before he came up sick.
“He was most proud of our success in the Thoroughbred business, his ability to pick out an individual, an athlete, and all his achievements in roping.”