Sunday, May. 26, 2024

JOHN A. BELL III

Thoroughbred owner-breeder and active participant in the American Horse Council, John A. Bell, III, died on Jan. 31 after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He was 88.

Born in Sewickley, Pa., in 1918, Mr. Bell was a graduate of Princeton University (N.J.) and later attended the Harvard (Mass.) graduate school of business administration. During World War II, he served in the Army Medical Administrative Corps.

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Thoroughbred owner-breeder and active participant in the American Horse Council, John A. Bell, III, died on Jan. 31 after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He was 88.

Born in Sewickley, Pa., in 1918, Mr. Bell was a graduate of Princeton University (N.J.) and later attended the Harvard (Mass.) graduate school of business administration. During World War II, he served in the Army Medical Administrative Corps.

In 1940, Mr. Bell purchased his first yearling filly at the Keeneland Sales (Ky.) with money he saved from selling a litter of pigs. In 1946, he moved to Lexington, Ky., where he broke yearlings for Max Hirsch. Eager to start his own business, Mr. Bell purchased land in 1954 and started Jonabell Farm where he specialized in the boarding, care and management of breeding stock as well as the preparation of horses for auction. 

Jonabell Farm produced more than 300 stakes winners, including top race horses like Battlefield, Never Say Die, Damascus and Green Forest as well as major stakes winners Try Something New, Highland Blade and Summing. Perhaps the pinnacle of his racing career was when his 2-year-old filly, Epitome, won the Breeders’ Cup and the Eclipse Award. He sold the farm in 2001.

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Over the years, Mr. Bell served the racing industry in many capacities, including membership on the board of stewards of the Jockey Club, leadership in the Grayson Foundation, and chairman of the American Racing Federation and as a chairman and trustee of the American Horse Council.

Before his death, Mr. Bell was involved in creating the Bell Chair for Alcohol and Addictions at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

He’s survived by his wife of 60 years, Jessica Gay Bell; two daughters, Jessica Nicholson and Bennett Williams; and sons, John A. Bell IV and James G. Bell as well as eight grandchildren.  

Memorial contributions may be made to The Bell Endowed Chair at the University of Kentucky, Office of Development, attn. H.I. Stroth, Sturgill Building, 120 Rose St., Lexington, KY 40504 or to the Hospice
of the Bluegrass, 2312 Alexandria Dr., Lexington, KY 40504.

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