Longtime Horseman Jack Willis Dies

Jack Willis riding a jumping horse Photo courtesy Jean Bickley

Clarence H. Willis III, better known as Jack, a longtime horseman and assistant in racing on the East Coast, died Monday at the age of 81.

Willis worked for the prominent Bostwick family in Aiken, SC before going on to work for the Phipps family under trainer Angel Penna, Sr. in the 1980s. He oversaw all of the powerhouse stable's yearlings and some layups in Aiken before moving north to help manage the Phippses' racing stable on the New York circuit of Belmont and Saratoga.

Some of the more well-known horses Willis worked with during that period included multiple Grade I-winning millionaire and GI Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Dancing Spree (Nijinsky), Grade I winner Time for a Change (Damascus) and Roselawn Farm/Airdrie Stud stallion Turkey Shoot (Seattle Slew).

In his later years, Willis went on to drive transport vans for Brook Ledge Horse Transportation before retiring to Florida to sell insurance.

“Jack was a good horseman and a friend to all. He was loyal and had a good sense of humor. I owe my entering horse racing to him,” said Jean Bickley, racing manager for Peter Brant.

Willis is survived by his wife of 50 years, Miryam, and their two sons, Steve and Jack.

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