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Multiple Congress & World Champion Sonnys Hot Jazz Passes

Talent, good looks, and star power are some of the adjectives that describe the late Sonnys Hot Jazz (Sonny). The three-time AQHA World Champion and Multiple Congress Champion passed away at the age of 25. The sorrel stallion was by Top Flight Sonny and out of Gail Napeta (TB) and was bred by Kirby Road Farm of North Rose, New York. Sonny also sired multiple Congress and World Champions including GI Jazz, Sonnys Hot Fantasy, Mostly Sunny Days, Sonnys Cool Jazz, and Zippos Hot Jazz to name a few.

When people think about Sonny–the name Jerry Erickson immediately comes to mind. Erickson told GoHorseShow the story of how he came across this gorgeous stallion.

“I was riding at a horse show in New York and someone approached me about this horse that they thought I might be interested in,” Jerry recalls. “I didn’t think to much about it because I had limited time and had to catch a flight home later that day. However, they came back and found me and trotted him down the driveway for me to see. Then, I got up and rode him in the wet grass–consequently pulling two of his shoes off in the soggy grass. Immediately, I knew I could do something with him. He was just a two year-old but he had an amazing stride at the walk and trot that I just fell in love with.”


Jerry continues, “I ended up writing a check for more money that I actually had in my account at the time but I knew one of my customers, Paul Lindsey wanted to partner with me on a stallion so I thought he would be perfect. I had them hold the check and the owners brought him to Congress and we vetted him there and then brought him home.”

Erickson remembers a funny moment when he first brought Sonny home to his farm. At the time, Patty Campbell was working for Erickson and Patty got on him and Jerry remembers him being a “complete idiot” and he said that Patty was a little worried about the horse he had just bought. However, after longing him for about 20 minutes, Jerry said he calmed down, and he was good as gold the rest of his career.

The next year, Jerry was Reserve Congress Champions with Sonny in the Three Year-Old Hunter Under Saddle Futurity and Erickson remembers Sonny being one of the shortest horses in the finals.

“At that time, the horses were becoming very tall in the hunter under saddle but he was barely 16 hands. He ended up being a late bloomer,” Jerry remembers. “Getting second is a testament to what a great mover he was–it wasn’t until he was older that he grew a few more inches and ended up right below 16.2 hands.”


Erickson remembers some of his most memorable moments with Sonny. One was when Sonny won the Open All-Around at the Congress in 1993 when he was Top 5 in seven events as a four year-old. The same year, Sonny won his first AQHA World Championship in the Junior Trail with Nancy Cahill aboard. One of Erickson’s favorite moments was in 1995 when they won the World Championship in the Pleasure Driving under all five judges. He also went on to win another world championship in driving in 1996 and was a Reserve World Champion in the Senior Working Hunter in 1994.

During his show career, Sonny amassed over 500 points in several events, but he also made his mark as a sire. His get has sired over 12,000 points in all divisions combined, $187,627.16 in AQHA Incentive Fund earnings as well as $64,615.57 in AQHA World Show earnings and $54,593.87 in NSBA futurity earnings. His get has won eight world championships, ten reserve world championships, and ten high point wins.

“Sonny sired some amazing offspring but he is also turning out to be a great paternal grandsire. There have been three AQHA World Champions out of his daughters,” Jerry states. “Sonny was just like a gelding and you would have never known he was a stallion. He was so laid back. Sonny was the type of horse that always figured out how to stay out of trouble and if you opened the door–he would go through it. He would never try to resist you. Luckily, he was never with anyone who was heavy handed with him because I don’t think he would have responded well to anyone being rough with him. He loved people and everyone that was involved in his life luckily loved him back.”

About five years ago, Erickson said during a downturn in the breeding business that he had a weak moment and sold Sonny to Melissa Jo Hollingsworth who is from Melbourne, Kentucky. They bred him for four years, but last year he started having trouble with his back end. Finally, when he couldn’t get back up on his own, they made the difficult decision of putting him to sleep.

“I was sad that I sold him but I don’t think he could have gone to a better place,” Jerry says. “Missy treated him like royalty and buried him in the favorite corner of his pasture that he always loved to hang out. It was the perfect place for him to live out his finals years.”


*Special thanks to Jerry Erickson on sharing his stories about Sonny.

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