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Joseph P. Pons Sr., 83; Breeder of Champion Thoroughbreds

October 17, 2005|From the Baltimore Sun

Joseph P. Pons Sr., patriarch of the family that owns one of the country's oldest commercial thoroughbred breeding farms, has died. He was 83.

Pons died of a heart attack Wednesday morning at his home in Bel Air, Md.

Pons lived at Country Life Farm with his wife and four of their five children. Cigar, a horse that retired in 1996 as the sport's all-time money winner, was born at the farm, and 1961 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Carry Back was bred there.

Born in Garden City, N.Y., Pons was the son of Adolphe Pons, a horseman and advisor to New York subway system financier August Belmont II. The elder Pons founded Country Life Farm in 1933 and moved his family there.

Pons' studies at Notre Dame University were interrupted by Army service during World War II, when he served in a cavalry unit.

After the war, he received a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Notre Dame and returned to Country Life. His father died in 1951, and Pons embarked on nearly five decades of the thoroughbred operation with his brother, John, who died in 1996.

Pons devoted Saturday mornings to inmates at the Harford County Detention Center near Bel Air. He was credited with starting a support group and counseling program for alcoholic inmates in the jail and with starting another program in nearby Fallston.

In recent years, his farm was home to Allen's Prospect, five-time national leader by number of wins, and Malibu Moon, sire of 2004 champion Declan's Moon. Cigar, the 1995 and 1996 Horse of the Year, is North America's all-time money leader at $9,999,815.

Survivors include his wife of 55 years, the former Mary Jo Ryan; three sons; two daughters; and six grandchildren.

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