A Friend Lost - By Eric Mitchell

Blood-Horse Publications and the Thoroughbred industry lost a dear friend this week.

If there were a person more open and genuine than Jim Hurst, I haven’t met him or her, and I doubt he or she exists. Jim passed suddenly from this world Aug. 11 and left the staff here at Blood-Horse Publications stunned and saddened. It is hard to wrap one’s mind around the magnitude of this loss; the extent of the emptiness he’ll leave behind.

I began to get some semblance of the void while making a list of the people who needed to be notified after we learned he was gone. He touched and befriended so many across the racing industry it would be impossible to name them all. His loss will be felt most keenly on the West Coast, his advertising territory for most of the 23 years he worked as a sales representative and which he continued to serve even after he was promoted in March to Advertising Director.

What made Jim so effective as a salesman was his ability to connect with people. He built long-lasting, personal relationships with his clients and worked hard to meet their needs. He was an important supplier of feedback, critique, and new ideas from our customers. Many times during the year he would show up at my office door with a freshly opened can of Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Mountain Dew.

“Hey, man, you got a minute?” the conversation usually began. “I know you’re busy, but this will only take a couple of minutes.”

“You know that new section we’re working on? You all have got some great ideas. I mean, I love the product, but a client was wondering if you could add a new list, say of leading consignors. Of course, they would be on the list, but it’s good information, you know? People need to know that stuff.”

Do you see how Jim worked? He complimented us on putting together a good product, but, oh, by the way, it would be even better if we added a new list. “Just a suggestion, mind you,” he would add.

No pressure needed. By the time Jim was done talking with you, you were looking for ways to help him out.

Jim was fierce competition for other ad executives because his connection with clients was so genuine and strong, according to Doug Burge, a friend and executive director of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Besides being good at his work, Jim was a gifted storyteller. A favorite of mine was the way he described a visit he made to a customer who lived near Bryan-College Station, Texas. When he went to her home, he found a deer roaming around in her living room.

He enjoyed and understood well the game of Thoroughbred racing. In addition to understanding the complexity of putting together a Pick 6 ticket at Del Mar, he understood how challenging the sport could be for owners, the risks that breeders took every year in trying to produce a good crop of foals, and admired everyone who stuck it out through lean years and were eventually rewarded with a big win or a home run at an auction.

Jim suffered his own unexpected and painful loss last year when a plane crash took the life of longtime California owner/breeder Frank “Scoop” Vessels. He could never tell me enough about what a down-to-earth and generous friend Vessels had been to him during his multiple trips to California.

“Scoop, man, he was such a good guy. I mean a really good guy who would do anything for you. He invited me to stay at his house and barely knew me,” he once said. “I don’t know how they are going to replace him.”

And now we’re left with our own loss to deal with.

Jim, we don’t know how we are ever going to replace you, either.


Memorial contributions for the children’s education fund can be made to:

Hurst Memorial Fund
Central Bank
3700 Palomar Centre Dr
Lexington, KY 40513
(or any Central Bank Location)


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