Marion County loses famed horseman who discovered American Pharoah

Horse racing in general and Central Florida in particular, has lost a good man and a superb horseman.

Saturday, J.B. McKathan died.

He was part of the famed McKathan Brothers team that ran a training center just north of Ocala in Citra.

He and his brother Kevin began the 200-acre training center in 1998.

J.B. McKathan

The brothers developed horses such as 1997 Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, 1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet and 1995 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
J. B. and his brother Kevin knew horses and how to pick them out.

Ironically, J. B. passed away on the anniversary of the day American Pharoah was born. J. B. was 53 years old.

The McKathans were the reason racing’s biggest names such as Bob Baffert, Ahmed Zayat, D. Wayne Lukas and Dale Romans put the Ocala area on their itinerary.

Baffert was quoted as saying, J.B. called and told him when American Pharoah was in training to come and get the colt because “he was too fast for his track” at the training center.

I first became acquainted with the McKathan boys about 40 years ago when their father J. B. “Luke” McKathan had a string of horses at Churchill Downs and was stabled directly across the road from there I spent my time.

When American Pharoah was at his peak, J. B. gave me all the time I needed and then some. It was like we were old friends. When American Pharoah was going for the Triple Crown, everyone wanted a piece of him. All of the major networks and newspapers came to the Ocala area. Whether it was the national press or just us homeboys, J. B. opened the doors.

I recalled watching the two mischievous McKathan Boys just being boys.

J. B. said “yeah, those two boys climbing on the barns were Kevin and I.”

Although Kevin remains, horse racing has lost not only a good horseman, but a very good man.

His brother’s death is bound to hurt Kevin because the two boys were very close.