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Horseman of the Year

Hermitage Farm’s Landes
honored for work in horse industry

The Pennsylvania native found his niche in Kentucky


 
(December 2018)
Read previous Don Ward columns!

Don Ward

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (December 2018) – Bill Landes is a familiar face in Oldham County, Ky., and throughout the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry. He has spent many of his early years working with, and learning from, one of the greats in the industry – the late Warner L. Jones Jr. of famed Hermitage Farm in Goshen, Ky.
So it is no surprise to many that he would eventually be honored for his years of service. This is that year.
On Nov. 17, Landes was presented with the Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners during its 31st annual awards gala, this year held at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
The award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion exemplified by Jones, who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence. Jones was the inaugural winner in 1988, six years before his death in 1994.
Upon being presented the award, Landes spent several minutes telling stories of working for the late Jones at Hermitage Farm.
In earlier interviews, he said, “You don’t know what this award means to me because I wouldn’t know half the people, have half the contacts, had half the fun in the thoroughbred business without Mr. Jones.

Photo by Don Ward

Award winner Bill Landes (far right) poses with (from left) Hermitage Farm co-owner Steve Wilson and grandchildren of the late Warner Jones, Warner Brown and Emilie Delehanty, at the Nov. 17 awards dinner.

“He taught me not only about horses – and I learned a lot about the horse business – but he taught me a lot about people. More importantly, he taught me about community, the local community. So many things he impressed upon me. There are a lot of truly great horsemen and great people who have won this award before me. But for me to have worked with Mr. Jones, known him and as family as well as I did, gosh, I can’t express in words what it means.”
The association has forged an impressive list of past winners of this award over the years.
“We name an award for the man who is so behind everything we do in the industry, the breeder we all aspire to do,” KTO president Chris Murphy said of Jones. “We forget about the people who make it happen – who take care of our horses, our farms and just make sure the whole system runs smoothly. We thought it would be fitting to honor someone who really is the glue to keep the entire industry together. Bill needs to be recognized for everything he’s done.”
Originally from York, Pa., Landes came to Hermitage Farm in 1977 for a one-year internship to learn the horse business. He remained by mutual agreement with Jones and pure enjoyment for the job, remaining as Jones right-hand man for 18 years. He stayed on after Warner’s death to work for new owner Carl Pollard as general manager, and has now compiled 41 years at the farm, including almost a quarter century as general manager. He continues to serve as general manager today for Hermitage Farm owners Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown.
“I enjoy the people, business, land and the horses. There’s no nicer place to work,” said Landes.

Photo by Don Ward

KTO President Chris Murphy (left) presents the award to Bill Landes.

It was during this time that he was involved in the sale and preparation of the world record yearling Seattle Dancer for $13.1 million, managed the career of leading sire Raja Baba, and played a key role in the 1987 dispersal of 130 head of Jones’ stock that sold at Keeneland for $32.6 million. Over the course of 39 years, Landes has sold several hundred yearlings, including Grade 1 winners Siphonic, Mani Bhavan, Tap To Music, and C.S. Silk and Paola Queen.
The farm is basically the same as it was when Landes joined the staff in 1977, Landes said in a previous interview with the Oldham County History Museum. This continuity is what Landes said he likes best about his job and why he has remained there.
He views Hermitage as an asset to the county because it is a green space that is privately maintained, with little demands on the county. Landes said so many people enjoy the farm as they drive by each day. Throughout the spring and summer, passersby watch the foals grow up, said Landes. 

Photo by Don Ward

Horse trainer Ken Ramsey (left) enjoys a laugh with award winner Bill Landes of Hermitage Farm.

Landes purchased his first race horse while in college at Susquehanna University. He won his first race at Penn National in 1972. By that time, he was attending the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law because of its proximity to horse country.
Landes is a past president of Kentucky Thoroughbred Association-Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders and of the La  Grange Rotary Club. And he is currently appointed by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin as chairman of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund Advisory Committee.

Landes and wife, Sally, own Greystone Farm near Hermitage Farm. Their breeding and racing operation have produced graded-stakes winner Roxelana. They have two daughters: Dr. Sarah Landes, a gastroenterology specialist, and Laura Landes, research grants coordinator for U of L’s School of Medicine.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: info@RoundAbout.bz.

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