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Auto Recyclers Achieve Kentucky Derby Fame

Robert Yagos' thoroughbred racehorse, Archarcharch, is a local celebrity as a 2011 Kentucky Derby contender.


The most famous part of J.B.'s Auto Salvage, Inc. in Jacksonville, Ark. isn't its extensive collection of vehicles. Nor is it the fact that co-owner Val Yagos ran for an Arkansas State Representative seat in 2008. No, J.B.'s Auto Salvage's claim to fame is much more unusual. It's the facility's racehorse, Archarcharch, one of 20 horses in the world to make it to the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Archarcharch stands tall with a rich black coat and brilliant white blaze, looking every inch the champion. At just 3 years old, this colt has an impressive record.

"As a 2-year-old, he won the Sugar Bowl Stakes [at Fair Grounds] in New Orleans," explained former owner Robert Yagos, co-owner of J.B.'s Auto Salvage. "At age 3, he won the Southwest Stakes in Hot Springs."

Archarcharch was a long shot to win the 2011 Arkansas Derby with odds of 25-1. But the horse did win and that was his entrée into one of the most prestigious races of all, the Kentucky Derby.

"To get a horse in the Kentucky Derby is like winning the lottery," emphasized Robert. "There are 30,000 horses born each year," noted the auto recycler, "and only 20 get to Churchill Downs."

Horseracing and automotive recycling aren't exactly a traditional combination, but it seemed a natural move for the husband and wife team.

"[Val and I] had been working for about eight years nonstop," recalled Robert. "It was seven-days-a-week, 10-hours-a-day -just grueling. So we decided to pull back a little and to find something we could do together. We cut our hours to five days a week and worked with thoroughbreds on the weekends."

That was 20 years ago. Today the Yagos have 10 - 12 horses which live on-site at J.B.'s Auto Salvage. Customers can see them in the stables at the back corner of the auto recycling facility.

"It's easier to keep tabs on them if they're right here," said Robert. "We have 40 acres for salvage and 20 acres for the horses."

It's a family business that includes Robert, Val and their son Joey Yagos.

"I've been working with the horses since I was 16," declared Joey. "I feed them in the mornings, clean the stalls, do the work that no one else wants to do," he joked. "I think it actually helps to have them near the yard. That way, they're used to all the noise of the business all day long. Archarcharch was in front of 160,000 people at the Derby, but it didn't bother him."

Archarcharch, trained by "Jinks" Fires and jockeyed by Jon Court, was the third betting choice to win. That changed when the horses charged out of the gate.

"You could tell something was wrong," noted Robert. "As it turned out, he fractured his front leg. But this horse has so much heart that he ran a mile and a quarter and still beat four other horses."

Though the injury wasn't life threatening, it took Archarcharch out of the running for future races. The Yagos made the difficult decision to put him up for stud. He's now at Spendthrift Farms in Lexington, Ky. with a long list of mares already lined up.

However, J.B.'s Auto Salvage won't forget Archarcharch.

"We're putting his name on our billing statements," said Robert. "We're keeping up his Facebook page. And a bank is putting him on a billboard. The horse is probably the most popular thing in Arkansas right now."

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