Hall of Famer Jimmy Cruise, Sr., Dies

Cruise was a Standardbred trainer and driver who won over 1700 races and $6 million in his career.
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Cruise was a Standardbred trainer and driver who won over 1700 races and $6 million in his career.

January 31, 2002 -- Jimmy Cruise Sr. 84, a Hall of Fame Standardbred trainer and driver, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, January 30, after an extended illness. Born into a harness racing family in Sheperdsville, Kentucky, Cruise's first drives were with his father, Hardy's horses on the Kentucky-Indiana fair circuit while still in high school. In 1942 Cruise won 27 consecutive races with the pacing mare, Miss Ruby.

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Cruise was one of the dominant trainer-drivers at Yonkers and Roosevelt Raceway in New York and also won four driving championships at the Western Harness Racing meetings in California. In all, he won more than 1,700 races and $6 million in his career. He twice represented the United States in the International Trot at Roosevelt Raceway with Kash Minbar.

Cruise was widely considered one of the consummate horseman of his era and was often sought out by the sport's top trainers and drivers who had horses with ailments they could not cure, earning him the nickname of "Doctor." New York Journal American's racing writer, Warren Pack, once quoted a Cruise contemporary as saying, "Jimmy Cruise can take some spit, tape and glue and turn a lame horse into a free-for-aller." Top horses campaigned by Cruise included Earl Laird, Express Rodney, Stormy Dream and Mr. Budlong.

Cruise was inducted into the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York in 1986. He is survived by his wife Joan and sons, James Jr., and Earl, both Standardbred trainers. Funeral details are pending.