Hal Jones devoted a lifetime to the business of breeding trotting and pacing horses. During his career he managed several of the finest Standardbred breeding facilities in the United States and, of significant importance to the industry, in the early 1960s he pioneered the use of artificial insemination when breeding horses. His Cameo Hills Farm has the distinction of having bred 2008 Hambletonian winner Deweycheatumnhowe 3,1:50.4 ($3,155,178).
Hal Jones was born on December 23, 1924 in Southgate, Kentucky to Walter and Nina Jones. A product of the Great Depression, Hal attended 13 different schools as the family moved from town to town, staying one step ahead of the bill collectors. They eventually settled in Westerville, Ohio where Walter managed the Standardbred breeding operations at Mac-Dot Farms. Hal attended high school in Westerville where he played football and worked at the farm every weekend. He was drafted to serve in the Air Force in March of 1943 and served over two years in England. Jones rejoined his father at the farm after returning from the service at the end of 1945. Hal and his wife Marie married in 1950.
From 1951 to 1969, Hal Jones managed Pickwick Farms in Bucyrus, Ohio for USTA president and Northfield Park founder Walter J. Michael. It was during this time that, almost out of necessity, Jones became the “father” of equine artificial insemination. Being so busy managing Pickwick, with its “quantity-over-quality” philosophy, he realized that a means of impregnation by other than natural cover would be a timesaver. In 1960, through Jones’s crude but effective artificial insemination techniques, Pickwick stallion Gene Abbe p,T2:00.3 ($51,239) was bred to 181 mares. Before Jones’s innovations a stallion’s full book was typically 50 or 60 mares. Jones’s breeding shed advancement was to change the very nature of Standardbred breeding forever by allowing stallions to be paired with a much larger number of mares and enabling popular bloodlines to appear in more horses. An added benefit of this procedure was the protection of the stallion and broodmare from all too frequent physical damage caused with live cover.
In 1961, Gene Abbe became the first stallion of any breed to register more than 100 foals in one breeding season. He was America’s leading moneywinning Standardbred sire for the year 1965, taking the annual top spot away from longtime leader Adios. He held the number one position for the next two years on his way to siring winners of nearly $27 million. Some of his most successful offspring were full brothers Irvin Paul p,4,1:58.3f ($548,518) and Stephan Smith p,1:58.4h ($335,527) from Edalena, Sly Attorney p,4,1:54.4 ($325,051) and Hall of Fame Immortal Big Towner p,4,1:54.4 ($547,126). Gene Abbe sired the dams of winners of over $73 million. Notable among these were Quite a Sensation p,5,1:53.3f ($1,085,068) and Boomer Drummond p,4,1:53.2 ($859,822).
In 1969, when Jones moved from Pickwick to work for the Kimelman family as farm manager at fledgling Blue Chip Farms in Wallkill, New York he brought Gene Abbe and many of Pickwick’s best mares with him. From 1971 to 1977 Jones was superintendent of the breeding program at Hanover Shoe Farms in Hanover, Pennsylvania. While there he worked with Hall of Fame Immortals Albatross p,4,1:54.3f ($1,201,470), Star’s Pride 5,1:57.1 ($140,969), Super Bowl 3,1:56.2 ($601,006) and Tar Heel p,4,T1:57 ($119,148) who, combined, sired winners of almost $300 million. In 1971 Hanover’s John Simpson Sr. offered Jones a share of syndication in Albatross. Jones’s $50,000 investment – his life savings – turned into a tremendous windfall for him with the phenomenal success of Albatross as a sire. While at Hanover Jones bred the Albatross colt Black Ace p,4,1:54.4 ($186,772), Tar Heel colt Penn State p,1:57.4f ($494,194) and colt Dear Star p,2,1:56.4 ($195,054) by Steady Star.
In 1978, Jones went to work for Alan Leavitt and Lana Lobell Farms where he built and managed its New Jersey operation, overseeing stallions such as Oil Burner p,4,1:54.2 ($535,541) and Speedy Somolli 3,1:55 ($427,550). While at Lana Lobell Jones bred top trotting colts Speed Merchant 4,1:55.3 (491,376) and Jersey Cup 4,1:57.3 ($263,100) – both sons of Speedy Somolli from outstanding producer Goldbrick. During this time Jones bred and owned Dear Fanny, who produced five $100,000 winners by five different sires.
In large part due to his success with Albatross, Jones was able to purchase Cameo Hills Farm in Montgomery, New York in 1982. He named it after Cameo Wick, the first horse he ever bought (for $800). It was Jones’s chance to lay a farm out the way he wanted it and to apply his own innovative design techniques. With the help of his sons Steve and Mike, Jones’s 225-acre facility soon became one of the top breeding and boarding operations in New York. Cameo Hills has bred such outstanding performers as Deweycheatumnhowe 3,1:50.4 ($3,155,178), Well Said p,3,1:47.3 ($2,569,342) and Pedigree Snob p,2,1:51.4 ($439,369). For their clients, Cameo has raised the likes of Goalie Jeff p,3,1:51.2 ($2,003,439), Housethatruthbuilt 3,1:52.4 ($1,164,931) and Bowlin For Dollars 4,1:53.2 ($498,084). Cameo broodmares of note include Town Sweetheart, dam of seven $100,000 winners and $3 million overall, and Must See, dam of Well Said.
Hal continued to live and work on the farm, providing wisdom, inspiration and encouragement to his son Steve, whose turn it is to guide the future of Cameo Hills. Son Mike now lives in Iowa.
Hal Jones passed away on January 31, 2015.