JACK BAGGITT JR., 58, DIES
-- Leon Zimmerman
FREEHOLD, NJ -- February 11, 2021 -- Jack Baggitt Jr., a New Jersey-based driver who raced mostly at Freehold Raceway, The Meadowlands and other Mid-Atlantic harness tracks, died Wednesday (Feb. 10) at Princeton Medical Center following complications from surgery. He was 58.
Baggitt, a resident of Columbus, N.J., spent three decades in harness racing, starting when he was 13 years old getting experience working with legendary Freehold Raceway horseman Harold Kelly, and started driving in races at the age of 16.
His first pari-mutuel racing victory was in 1982 with a horse named Terry’s Lucky Lady at Freehold. He competed in the Junior Driving Championships, taking home the $15,000 grand prize in the Foxboro Driving Derby. He soon became a regular among the top-notch driving colony at Freehold, as well as competing at The Meadowlands and Garden State Park.
By 1984, Baggitt burst on the harness racing scene with 117 wins and $1,134,332 in purse earnings that included driving Lisheen to victory in the $347,750 Mistletoe Shalee at The Meadowlands, his most prestigious triumph at that time. His success earned him the honor of being chosen the Rising Star of 1984 by the United States Harness Writers Association.
Overall, in his 30-year career, Baggitt drove the winners of more than $16 million with 2,700 victories, 2,535 second-place finishes and 2,381 third-place finishes. He also trained 132 winners earning nearly $1.5 million.
His most successful year was 2007, when he drove 355 winners and was in the money 999 times, with horses that earned $2.7 million. He had 10 years with more than 100 victories, and he once drove eight winners in one day at Freehold.
Baggitt is also remembered for Danish Delight, whom he purchased as a yearling in 1999 for $6,000. The trotter earned $537,671 in four years of racing, highlighted by a third place finish in the $1-million Breeders Crown to Fool’s Goal and Plesac in 2002 and winning an elimination of the Dexter Cup as a 3-year-old.
He had family connections in harness racing as well, with cousin Bob Baggitt Jr., a successful trainer, and his late uncle, Bob Baggitt Sr., a long-time Standardbred horse owner who served many years as a vice president and member of the Board of Directors of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey.
Predeceased by his parents, Jack Sr. And Joanne, he is survived by two sons, Jason, of Bradley Beach, N.J., and Jeffrey, of Old Bridge, N.J.; two sisters, Jill Norton of Columbus, N.J., and Jeanne Turnquist of Yardley, Pa.; several nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.
Funeral arrangements include limited visitation on Sunday (Feb. 14) from 2 to 4 p.m. at Freeman Funeral Home, 47 East Main Street, Freehold, N.J.
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