Q-Racing Blog: Punch

The loss of a legend.

R.C. "Punch" Jones was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2005.

The obituaries, rightfully, will read that R.C. “Punch” Jones, 89, died on November 28. They will also mention that he was preceded in death by his wife, Suzanne, in 2015.

That’s correct. However, there is so much more about these icons. It is impossible to mention one without the other. They have been a loving team since they were married in 1953.

I can’t think of two people more passionate about the horse, especially the American Quarter Horse.

They are the only couple who were separately inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. Suzanne in 1999 and then Punch in 2005. I can attest, as curator of the Ruidoso Downs’ Racehorse Hall of Fame, there has never been two people approved more quickly for induction into the Racehorse Hall of Fame. When their names were raised, they were approved faster than Dan Marino could get off a pass. Boom. Done.

About half a century ago, I was showing my mare in a youth class – either western pleasure or reining – and Suzanne was the judge. I didn’t place, however she was so kind and compassionate. She told me several things to work on and that they might help. They did.

“Suzanne challenged our faith with questions and Punch just wanted to know what direction he was headed,” said Ruidoso Downs’ chaplain Darrell Winter, a close friend.  “Both of them were rock solid with their love for each other, love for the horse and love for the cowboy lifestyle. And I loved the pecan pies she would make for me.

“I saw Punch about three weeks ago and knew he wasn’t doing well. He was still living on the family ranch and had a caregiver. He was connected to that ranch’s land his entire life.”

The Jones Ranch, started by Punch’s father, A.D. Jones, is located near the edge of the Permian Basin about 12 miles west of Tatum, New Mexico, which is about 15 miles from the Texas border. Punch’s father established the Debouillet breed of sheep.

Suzanne was a supremely accomplished horsewoman. At the University of Arizona, she showed horses and was on the rodeo team. She went on to the United State Equestrian Team and won a jumping class at Madison Square Garden. She was actively involved in the 4-H program throughout New Mexico and was an AQHA judge for 31 years. She was named the Nutrena Senior Athlete at the 2012 Adequan® Select World Championship Show. Suzanne was 87 and her horse, Freckles On My Mind, was 10 to give them a combined age of 97.

Punch helped start the New Mexico A&M (now New Mexico State University) rodeo program in 1947. He competed in bull riding, bareback, saddle broncs and bulldogging. He also became involved in weekend match races. He was hooked.

He did not like the “bulldog” type of Quarter Horse popular at the time. He desired a horse with more Thoroughbred attributes.

When they were married, Suzanne had a Thoroughbred filly named Maroon. Punch had tried to buy Maroon – unsuccessfully – from her previous owner, Mary Pierce, and then tried to buy her from the then-Suzanne Norton. Suzanne and Punch married, and had a mare who would produce a bounty of Quarter Horses that have rewarded the Jones’ operation for generations.

Maroon was match raced by Punch in West Texas and went on to set track records at 350, 400 and 440 yards at Ruidoso Downs and establish track standards at 400 and 440 yards at The Downs at Albuquerque. She was used on the ranch when not racing.

As a broodmare, Maroon became the Jones’ breeding program. Her descendants, all of which were bred by the Joneses and most raced by them, include three-time stakes winner and $522,165 earner Rule The Deck, four-time stakes winner and $269,079 earner A Roon, five-time stakes winner and $159,925 earner Kuhi Kuhi, three-time stakes winner and $122,934 earner Madam President, and two-time stakes winner and $94,068 earner Good Catch. Each of these horses, except for Kuhi Kuhi, raced before 1984 when purses were much lower than today’s purses.

When asked about his breeding philosophy, Punch said, “I never bred to a stallion that I didn’t see first. I don’t understand how people can spend a lot of money for stud fees on a horse they have never seen.”

When Punch looked at a stallion, you can bet he saw more in five minutes than a committee of “experts” can see in five days.

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