His drop-to-the-basement way of stopping literally revolutionized the style of reining.
Despite his name, Hollywood Jac 86 didn’t look like a celebrity. He wasn’t handsome. He wasn’t big. He wasn’t at all impressive at the end of a lead shank. He was a 14.3, sandy-colored palomino with a dark dorsal stripe and floppy ears. Yet when Hollywood Jac stepped to center stage, he had undeniable star power. His drop-to-the-basement way of stopping literally revolutionized the style of reining. He passed this ability on so consistently that it became the signature trait of the Hollywood Jac family line.
Hollywood Jac 86 was bred by John and Mary Bowling of Sumner, Iowa. The Bowlings were well known for their strong performance lines. They owned Jac’s sire, Easter King, an own son of King P-234. Their broodmare band boasted more than 2 dozen daughters of Hollywood Gold, who was known in the 1950s and ’60s as the “King of the Cutting Horse Sires.” Among those daughters was Miss Hollywood, herself a Register of Merit-earner. In 1967, she foaled Hollywood Jac 86.
Hollywood Jac was first sold to Pat Fitzgerald of Mondovi, Wis., but Fitzgerald didn’t own the weanling long before trainer Spain Prestwich came along, decided he liked the colt, and took him to Minnesota.
“Pat had made some kind of trade and there must have been 30 to 40 colts in that pen,” recalled Prestwich. “When I told Pat I wanted the lop-eared colt, he laughed and said, ‘That’s the ugliest one in the bunch.’ But I picked Jac out because I liked the way he stopped. He would run from one end of the pen to the other and just slide into the fence, roll back, and then run to the other end and slide.”
Prestwich instinctively knew the colt would make a great reining prospect. He was not disappointed. He said that even as a yearling and 2-year-old, Jac continued to show this natural desire and ability to stop. Before he started riding Jac, Prestwich worked him on the longe line. The horse could be bucking and playing and racing .in circles, but when Spain called out “whoa,” Jac would drop on his hindquarters, slide to a stop, sit there on his butt, and look around like a friendly pup. Prestwich had never seen anything like it, before or since.
“He looked like Bullwinkle the Moose with his ears flopped out to the side,” Prestwich said with a chuckle. “He used to do that a lot.”
This peculiar talent remained with Jac when Prestwich started him under saddle.
“He was a really nice horse to train. He was a little studdy as a 2- and 3-year-old, which is normal for that age, but we didn’t have any problems with him. He was really smart. He pretty much taught himself. And you couldn’t make him miss a lead. In fact, we even showed him as a western riding horse,” said Prestwich.
The trainer also started Hollywood Jac on cattle. He noted that the stallion had a lot of cow sense, which didn’t surprise Prestwich, given the way the colt was bred. But Spain was more interested in developing Jac as a reiner. He occasionally showed Jac in cutting to help fill classes. One time, Spain’s father, an avid cutter, asked Spain to enter a class so the top horses could earn more points. He did and Jac placed second, beating the horse shown by Spain’s dad. “He wasn’t too happy about that,” Spain smiled.
Prestwich began showing Hollywood Jac as a 3-year-old, and he started to accumulate reining points almost immediately. In his first trip to the Minnesota State Fair, one of the biggest reinings in the upper Midwest, Jac placed third in the junior reining. The next year as a 4-year-old, he won it. The following year he won it again as a senior horse. But on one of those occasions, Jac literally made an impact.
“We were showing at the Minnesota State Fair and he stopped so hard that he slid about 50 feet and hit the wall,” recalled Prestwich. “Boy, those guys were really screaming. But the judge said, ‘As long as he didn’t fall down, he’s going to win the reining.’ And he did win the reining!”
It was during that same time when Hollywood Jac made a strong first impression on Tim McQuay, a reining horse trainer who has since become legendary himself for his association with this family line. Tim, who now lives in Tioga, Tex., was living in Minnesota at the time.
“I saw Hollywood Jac when Spain still owned him, and I fell in love with him then,” McQuay acknowledged. “I don’t know how to explain it. It was a different style back then. But he was a great stopper. He’d just curl up in a ball, bury his butt, and slide for what seemed like forever. He just had his own style.”
McQuay remembers watching Prestwich and Jac win the tough senior reining class at the Minnesota State Fair. When the duo came back the next day to compete in the reining stake, Prestwich really called on the horse. When Spain asked Jac to back up, the horse went into reverse with so much speed that he lost his footing and went down. The glitch only served to heighten McQuay’s respect for Hollywood Jac. He recognized that the stallion’s talent was exceeded only by the size of his heart.
Although Jac didn’t look like the kind of horse who could stir up controversy, he sure enough did. He had so much ability and try that judges tended to look past his mistakes. Prestwich recalls another ruckus they caused at a northern Minnesota horse show.
“I remember it was a long arena, and when I came out of a rollback, my saddle slipped to the side. So I stood up and started to straighten it, and the horse just buried his butt and started sliding. There wasn’t supposed to be a stop there, so I kicked him out of it. Well, there was one particular trainer who was mad because we won the reining anyway. He said for all rights and purposes, we’d broke pattern. The judge looked at the trainer and said, ‘No, that horse scotched, so I knocked him 3 points because it was a bad scotch, but he still beat you by 2 points.”‘
Of course, the judges weren’t the only ones taking stock of Hollywood Jac’s talent. Richard Greenberg was in the stands one day watching a versatility class in Madison, Wis., when Spain rode in on Jac. Clark Bradley, another respected reining horse trainer, sat beside him. As they watched Jac work, Bradley commented that the palomino looked like a pretty nice horse. Since Greenberg was in the market for a non-pro horse, Bradley suggested that Richard try to buy him.
Greenberg tracked down Prestwich after the class to ask if the horse was for sale. Although Prestwich and Greenberg have slightly different versions of what transpired, the bottom line was, Spain was in no hurry to part with Hollywood Jac 86. Prestwich had once sold Jac as a 3-year-old to a Minneapolis police officer named AI Crepeau. When Crepeau lost interest 5 months later, Prestwich was happy to take the horse back.
Incidentally, Crepeau never transferred Jac’s papers into his name, but he did briefly stand him at stud, advertising his services for a $75 fee.
However, it wasn’t long after Greenberg made his inquiry that Prestwich’s situation changed. He was purchasing a farm and needed capital. So he called Greenberg on a Monday morning to find out if he was still interested in buying the horse. The price was $3,000. He could deliver him that evening.
“Mind you, I’m in Chicago and he’s in Minnesota. I didn’t even know that Jac was a stallion,” explained Greenberg. “But like everything else I do in my life, without thinking I said, ‘I’ll take him.’ Sure enough, that night he (Prestwich) showed up with Jac.
“But by this time, I had started to worry that maybe something had happened to the horse that influenced Prestwich’s decision to sell him,” Greenberg continued. “So after he took the horse out of the trailer, I said ‘Okay, let me see him.’ Prestwich proceeded to ride Jac around and do all kinds of stuff. When he got off, he asked me, ‘Do I want to try the horse?”‘
To make matters worse, this entire transaction was taking place at a large boarding stable where a local horse association meeting was in progress. The presence of a curious audience only added to poor Richard’s discomfort.
“By this time I was so intimidated and felt so stupid by what I had done,” Greenberg added, “I just said ‘No.’ I gave him his money and he left. I hadn’t even gotten on the horse.
“So, Prestwich leaves and one of these very knowledgeable horse people comes up to me and says, ‘You didn’t buy that horse did you?’ And not knowing that much about horses and, of course, respecting anybody who had an opinion, I said, ‘Yeah.’ To which he replies, ‘Well, that horse is so unsound, he won’t last the year.’
“So there I was. The trainer had gone. I’d given him my money. I now own Hollywood Jac. I’m $3,000 poorer. I have someone who has told me that the horse won’t last the year. And I said to myself, ‘Life goes on. Whatever is, is.’
“I guess I’ve made worse mistakes,” Greenberg laughed years later.
But if Richard was feeling pangs of regret, it may have comforted him to know that so was Prestwich
“I knew what I had there. I knew what he was. But it was just one of those things. I should have kept the horse and sold the farm,” Spain laughed. “He was probably the best horse I ever rode.”
Greenberg’s doubts were soon alleviated. A week after he bought Jac, he trailered the horse and a mare to trainer Ed Cridge’s farm for a lesson. Cridge not only gave Jac his seal of approval, he startled Richard with another revelation. When Greenberg unloaded the horse, Cridge told him that he didn’t think it was a good idea to haul his stallion next to a mare. Greenberg’s response: “What stud?” Jac was so gentlemanly that Richard still hadn’t noticed that the horse was still intact.
Cridge rode Jac and was duly impressed. He gave Greenberg some additional advice: Go have some fun with the versatile little horse. Richard took him at his word.
At their first show together, Richard showed Jac in 28 classes in a 2-day period-barrels, poles, pleasure, reining, and just about everything on the show bill.
“I think we missed the all-around by just a half-point,” Greenberg laughed, “and he never took a lame step.” The dire prediction of the “horse expert” whose comments had worried Greenberg couldn’t have been more wrong.
“He never took a lame step in the 20 years that I owned him,” noted Greenberg. “He never had a cold. He never even threw a shoe.”
Even so, Richard was lucky he didn’t kill Hollywood Jac. One day, after leaving the Gold Coast Circuit, Greenberg’s horse trailer came unhitched on a Florida interstate. He had forgotten to lock down the ball. The trailer did a double flip.
“We thought for sure the horses were dead,” said Greenberg. “We had to get a fire truck and a welder to cut the trailer apart to get the horses out. The other horse, who was a big hunter jumper, was laying on top of Jac. We had to sedate him because he was thrashing around, but we didn’t give Jac anything. Finally, after about an hour, we got them out. When we pulled Jac out of the trailer, he got up, shook his head, walked over to the side of the road, and started eating grass.
“About an hour later my friend Dr. Tim Bartlett came along. He had an empty slot in his trailer and Jac jumped right in like nothing had happened. Tim brought him home for me,” Greenberg said incredulously.
The near-tragedy illustrates the take-it-in-stride disposition that Hollywood Jac 86 was noted for. It is also a hallmark of his get.
Despite Richard’s initial lack of horse experience, he and Hollywood Jac did become a fabulous team- once Jac straightened Greenberg out about a few things.
“The first time I went to a reining by myself with Jac, I was getting ready to walk into the pen. At that time I was just beginning to rein and I knew a lot less than I thought I knew,” Greenberg confided. “So I reached up with my spur and poked Jac in the shoulder to get him to lighten up and turn around faster. Jac turned around and bit my toe,” he laughed. “That was the last time I ever rode Hollywood Jac with a pair of spurs.
“He had a tremendous amount of feel,” Greenberg added. “He was a very easy horse to ride. He had an incredible combination of power and sensitivity. Yet you could put little kids on Jac and they couldn’t even get him to trot.”
NRHA bronze trophies riding Jac and earned 2 NRHA non-pro world champion titles, one in 1974 and another in 1975. Greenberg retired Jac from the show ring with NRHA earnings of $6,089.Richard’s respect and affection for Hollywood Jac paid big dividends. Greenberg won 12
Appropriately, one of Hollywood Jac’s biggest fans, Tim McQuay, judged the stallion the last time Greenberg ever showed him. It was at a jackpot reining at trainer Ken Eppers’ place in Grayslake, Illinois.
“I remember it vividly,” said McQuay. “He ran like he was going to win it that day. He was great, but he set up going to the last stop, so I placed him second.”
“He was an unbelievable horse,” said Greenberg, “He was just an unbelievable creature. He was ready to go when I bought him, and he always stayed ready to go.”
Spain Prestwich showed Jac to his AQHA Superior award before turning over the reins to Greenberg in 1972. Jac earned 72 AQHA reining points. One of Prestwich ‘s favorite stories about Jac is the time he showed him for Richard at a Quarter Horse show in Northbrook, Illinois. When Prestwich arrived, he unloaded the horse and noticed that Jac’s sliding plates had broken in two. He tried to find a shoer. No luck. So Prestwich went to the nearby Libertyville Saddle Shop, bought some tools, and pulled Jac’s shoes.
“I’d hauled him 400 miles so I thought, I’m just going to show him anyway. So I rode him barefoot and won the reining. He beat the horse that was leading the nation,” Prestwich recalled gleefully.
Western Horseman’s Legends: Volume 3. It provides exclusive detailed profiles, photographs, pedigrees and performance summaries of the horses that played significant key roles in the Quarter Horse industry.If you are interested in reading more about Hollywood Jac 86 and other great, “Legendary,” horses, we invite you to read through
This article was originally published in the November 1997 issue of Western Horseman.