Jonabell has produced over 200 Stakes winners – 14 champions – including leading sire Damascus and the Bell’s homebred Breeders’ Cup winner Epitome. Bell also raised Never Say Die, the first American-bred horse to win the Epsom Derby. Holy Bull retired to Jonabell in 1995 and is considered one of the best racehorses in North America over the last quarter century. He is now enjoying his retirement following a successful stud career. Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner, stood at stud at Jonabell for the last ten years of his life and is buried at the farm near the stallion complex.
Looking back a bit farther into the history of Jonabell finds its origins tracing to Colonel Abraham Bowman, an early pioneer and settler in what is now Fayette County which encompasses the city of Lexington. Bowman and his brothers first ventured to Kentucky in the mid-1770s when they extensively explored the area and also during a time in which Bowman became friends with the great frontiersman, Daniel Boone. Bowman’s sons, too, were no strangers to exploration. Bowman’s wife, Sarah, was a cousin to Meriwether Lewis of the famous “Lewis and Clark Expedition”, the first exploration mapping the western half of the United States. Abraham and Sarah’s sons took part in the first half of the historic journey before returning to Kentucky.
After serving in the American Revolutionary War, Bowman was land granted nearly 7,500 acres in central Kentucky and eventually acquired additional land and settled on what is now Jonabell. Bowman’s original holdings included the land upon which Keeneland Racetrack now sits, a tract of land he left in his will to daughter Polly Keene.