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Wed. Notes: Keeping Up With the Joneses at Fair Grounds This Season

NEW ORLEANS (Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012) – Larry and Cindy Jones, the husband-and-wife training duo with their perennial herd of stakes horses, were partially in residence once again on the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots backstretch Wednesday morning.

Still in absentia was Larry, who is due in at the New Orleans oval Thursday as Fair Grounds begins the second racing week of its 2012-2013 meeting, which runs through March 31.

“I got here a week ago Monday,” said Cindy, tongue-in-cheek, Wednesday morning as she put some finishing touches on one of the stalls in their barn. “I’ve been doing Larry’s work as well as my own up to now, so it seems like the more things change the more they stay the same.”

Always quick with a quip – as is her husband – the Joneses remain one of the most likeable tandems in racing, and they have almost all of their Fair Grounds stakes winners from last season with them once again.

Believe You Can has been here for a little while now,” said Mrs. Jones, speaking of last spring’s Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks heroine who went on to victory in Churchill’s Grade I Kentucky Oaks, becoming the fifth filly in the last eight renewals of the Fair Grounds Oaks to parlay that victory into another in the Kentucky Oaks.

Mark Valeski got down here a couple of days ago,” she added of last spring’s  Grade II Louisiana Derby and Grade II Risen Star runner-up who went on to win the Grade II Dwyer at Belmont Park later in the season. “Today was the first day we took him to the track.”

What about Mr. Bowling, who won Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes last January before wrenching his back in the Risen Star and being taken out of training?

“He’s here, too,” Cindy said, completing her updates on that trio of 3-year-olds owned by Brereton Jones. “We had to turn him out after he hurt himself in the Risen Star, but he’s back with us now.

“The only one we don’t have back from last year is (Fox Hill Farms’) Havre de Grace,” she concluded, speaking of the 2011 Horse of the Year who won Fair Grounds’ $150,000 New Orleans Ladies last season before being retired later in the year.

WOODCHOPPER HERO UNLATCH: OLDER THE BETTER – Adele Dilschneider’s Unlatch, winner of Fair Grounds’ $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes last Friday, came out of that race in good order and was doing well Wednesday morning, according to Pam Fitzgerald, trainer Al Stall Jr.’s longtime assistant.

“He’s a big strong horse who is still growing into himself,” Fitzgerald said. “I think he’s going to be even better as a 4-year-old.”

At this time, Unlatch appears as a prime candidate for Fair Grounds’ grass series for older horses which begins with theJan. 19 Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap.

MENA CLOSES OUT CHURCHILL WITH BIG BANG – Jockey Miguel Mena,a Fair Grounds regular during the winter, wrapped up his assault on Churchill Downs’ closing weekend stakes with a winaboard 30-1 longshot Keep  Up, owned by Mill Ridge Farm, in Sunday’s Grade III River City Handicap.

Last Saturday, Mena swept Churchill’s Grade II Golden Rod with Naveed Chowhan’s 31-1 longshot Seaneen Girl and its Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club with John Oxley’s Uncaptured.

BRIAN HERNANDEZ JR. ON GROUNDS AT FAIR GROUNDS WEDNESDAY – Native Louisianan jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who won the biggest race of his career with a victory in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Janis Whitham’s Fort Larned earlier this month, accepted congratulations for that highlight tally in Fair Grounds’ racing office Wednesday morning in advance of his upcoming winter campaign at the New Orleans oval.

STRING KING’S HALF-BROTHER RUNS THURSDAY – Charles Craig Smith’s String Attack, a 3-year-old half-brother to that owner’s String King, winner of last year’s $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf and this season’s $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes, is entered Thursday at Fair Grounds in the ninth race of the day.

“He’s got a long way to go to be anything like his big brother,” said Smith of String Attack, “but he’s showed me some improvement in his training lately.”

String Attack is still a maiden after four outings at Louisiana Downs this year. Like his older sibling, he is owned, trained and bred by Smith.