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Monday Notes: Larry Jones's Diary On Lundi Gras Morning
There was still a sliver visible in the eastern sky from February’s waning moon when the stakes horse-laden barn of the Larry & Cindy Jones Stable began its workday on Lundi Gras morning in New Orleans.
Here are some highlights – in chronological order – recorded at that Fair Grounds barn during training hours on the eve of Mardi Gras:
5:58 a.m. – Reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, owned by Fox Hill Farms, becomes the first horse of the day to step on the track for an official workout, accompanied by trainer Larry Jones on his stable pony Pal. Havre de Grace, with exercise rider Jen Brasser in the irons, accomplishes her third timed work but first five-furlong breeze of the season, recording splits of 12 flat, 24.20, 36.20 and 48 flat prior to ticking off the five-eighths in 59.80 and galloping out the three-quarter mile distance in 1:14.60. The champion mare is moving closer to her first race of 2012 – most probably at Fair Grounds in the $100,000 New Orleans Ladies on March 17.
“She gets ready pretty quick,” said Jones some minutes later of Havre de Grace’s approaching seasonal bow. “She’s starting to stretch herself out on her own lately. She’s getting to the point where she wants to work now. That’s what I like to see.”
8:14 a.m. – Last outrider leaves the track as the first tractor appears for the morning’s renovation break.
8:33 a.m. – The first of Larry Jones’ two sophomore colts preparing for this Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Louisiana Derby Preview Day steps onto the track, accompanied by a work mate that will be uninvolved with the Risen Star.
“OK, here we go,” says the trainer astride his stable pony as he leads his team into the morning action.
Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski, a winner of his last two starts, works in company with Brereton Jones’s maiden colt See Me Proud, and Mark Valeski, with Fair Grounds’ leading jockey Rosie Napravnik in the irons, breezes five furlongs in 1:00.20 while the maiden gets the distance in 1:00.40.
Moments later Brereton Jones’s Lecomte Stakes winner Mr. Bowling, with seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion Robby Albarado aboard, breaks off working in company with the former Kentucky governor’s maiden colt Very Lucky, and gets the five-eighths in 59.80 while the work mate does the distance in 1:00.40.
8:44 a.m. – After dismounting from Mark Valeski, jockey Napravnik gets a leg up on Brereton Jones’s $125,000 Silverbulletday stakes heroine Believe You Can, supposedly working by herself in preparation for Saturday’s Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes, the final designed prep for the $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks March 31.
8:46 a.m. – Believe You Can steps on the track, accompanied by her trainer Jones on his stable pony.
8:49 a.m. –The Silverbulletday winner breaks off from Jones and goes five furlongs in 1:00.60 but is engaged by a horse from another barn during the move. That unplanned development turns out to be a blessing in disguise, giving Napravnik the chance to see if Believe You Can is able to be rated behind rivals.
“That was perfect,” says Napravnik to another rider as she pulls up Believe You Can. “I was so happy.”
Moments later, back at the barn, assistant trainer Cindy Jones speaks to the jockey before the rider leaves for another assignment. “Thank you so much,” the trainer’s wife says to Fair Grounds’ leading rider. “I’m excited.”
To the filly, taking her first turn cooling out around the shed row, Mrs. Jones says, “What a girl! What a girl!”
9:28 a.m. – Larry Jones comes up for air after an unusually busy morning to address some interested bystanders.
“Yeah, this morning we got tangled up in some other people’s workers,” Jones says. “Believe You Can – she wound up having a target to work at, so Rosie got to see a different side of her that she needed to see. Now she knows that the filly can be rated. As for Mark Valeski, Rosie really likes him. She has the confidence that she can take him anywhere she wants, and that this colt has more than one move in him.
“Robby (Albarado) said that (Mr. Bowling) is getting better every day,” Jones concluded. “He was very happy with the way things went for him this morning.”
APPLAUDING TO SCRATCH FROM RACHEL ALEXANDRA – Ramona Bass’s undefeated sophomore filly Applauding will not participate in Saturday’s Grade III, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes, trainer Al Stall Jr. said Monday after a four-furlong breeze in :50 4/5.
“She didn’t work to my satisfaction and I’m going to scratch her,” Stall said. “She just wasn’t herself. I don’t know if something’s bugging her internally or what. She just wasn’t right.”
Applauding was a nine-length debut winner at Keeneland in October and followed that with a six-length allowance win at Fair Grounds on Dec. 2 but hasn’t raced since. She was the morning line favorite in last month’s $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes but scratched the day of the race due to a minor case of colic.
McGEE SAYS FG-LOVING DUBIOUS MISS GOING INTO FG ‘CAP ‘THE RIGHT WAY’ – David P. Holloway Racing’s Dubious Miss will get another shot at Andrews T & S Racing’s Mr. Vegas in Saturday’s Grade III, $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap. Dubious Miss was slowly gaining ground on Mr. Vegas in the stretch run of last month’s Grade III Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap but checked slightly when the leader came out, an incident that jockey Corey Lanerie claimed afterwards may have cost him the race. Following a lengthy deliberation, an objection was disallowed.
“It could’ve gone our way, I felt,” trainer Paul McGee said Monday morning, one month after the Bradley. “Usually when it takes that long you expect a change. We watched it 100 times and at that point you’re thinking they’re going to change it but they left it.”
McGee likes the way Dubious Miss is coming up to Saturday’s race, but this time he’ll face not only Mr. Vegas, but several new shooters, including last year’s Grade II Mervin H. Muniz Memorial winner Smart Bid.
“I don’t know if we can beat those horses or not but we’re going into this race the right way,” he said.
Dubious Miss worked five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 on Monday with Lanerie aboard.
“That’s about his standard breeze, 1:01 and change,” McGee said. “It was about what we were looking for. But isn’t that what trainers always say?”
One strong point for Dubious Miss is that the 8-year-old gelding has never missed the board in five starts over Fair Grounds’ Stall-Wilson turf course.
“Even though he’s only got one lifetime win on the grass he’s run well on it, and he’s always run well on this grass course,” McGee noted. “He threw in a clunker at Churchill and I still don’t know why he ran so badly that day but both of his races down here have been really good.”
OTHER MONDAY WORKERS PREPARING FOR LOUISIANA DERBY PREVIEW DAY – Jerry Namy’s Shared Property, third in the Lecomte at Fair Grounds Jan. 21, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 early Monday morning in advance of Risen Star, final designed prep for the $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby April 1, closing day of Fair Grounds’ 2011-2012 season.
“He went great,” said trainer Tom Amoss during the renovation break. “I was very pleased.”
Zayat Stables’ Z Dager, runner-up in the Lecomte, breezed a half-mile in 50.60 for the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen in preparation for Saturday’s Risen Star, while Zayat Stables’ Nehro, runner-up in last year’s Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby, went five furlongs in 1:02 flat in preparation for an allowance race Saturday.
Naveed Chowhan’s Annaclone breezed five-eighths in 1:03.20 Monday in advance of Saturday’s $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
Elsewhere, on Sunday at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida, Let’s Go Stable’s El Padrino, the Todd Pletcher trainee projected as the 2-1 morning line favorite for the Risen Star, went a half-mile in 48.80 prior to arrival his in New Orleans mid-week, and George Hicker and Button Stables’ Tres Borrachos went five furlongs in 1:02.80 handily Sunday morning at Hollywood Park in preparation for the Mineshaft.
Additional reporting by Jim Mulvihill.