Jess Jackson, Vintner and Racehorse Owner, Dies of Cancer at 81

Jess Jackson, owner of the Preakness Stakes-winning thoroughbreds Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, died today at age 81 of cancer, according to a statement from his family.

Jackson, the founder of Kendall-Jackson winery whose thoroughbreds won Horse of the Year for three consecutive seasons, passed away at his home in Geyserville, California.

Jackson entered the horse racing industry later in life, and in 2007 purchased a majority stake in Curlin, a stallion that won the Preakness Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic that same year. In 2009, Jackson’s Rachel Alexandra became the first filly since 1924 to win the Preakness.

Curlin was named Horse of the Year in 2007 and 2008 and amassed $10.5 million in prize money. Rachel Alexandra went undefeated in 2009 and won Horse of the Year honors that same year. In February, the two horses were bred in Lexington, Kentucky.

Jess Stonestreet Jackson grew up in San Francisco and paid his own way through law school at the University of California, Berkley. After working as a farmer, longshoreman, policeman and land-use lawyer, Jackson converted his family’s 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lakeport, California, into a vineyard.

The Kendall-Jackson winery produced its first bottle in 1982 and in 1983 won the first Double Platinum award ever presented by the American Wine Competition. The label became the best-selling Chardonnay in America for over two decades, according to the statement.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Banke, and five children.

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