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Barn Notes: Sunday, December 22
IN TODAY'S NOTES: Along Came Jones on Santa Super Saturday; Veteran Jockey David Flores Leaving for Singapore; Another Hernandez Jockey Debuts -- Little Sister Courtney
Hopefully, for trainer Larry Jones and his former Governor of Kentucky owner Brereton Jones, the magic of a winter campaign in New Orleans will happen again once again at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
On Dec. 21, when Fair Grounds ran its Santa Super Saturday program four days before Christmas, the Jones Boys teamed up to win both of the afternoon’s stakes races for 2-year-olds with a promising pair of juveniles who will become 3-year-olds on New Year’s Day.
The Jones-owned and Jones-trained aptly-named bay filly Divine Beauty, ridden by Fair Grounds defending rider champion Rosie Napravnik, scored an impressive 6 ½-length victory in the $60,000 Letellier Memorial and four races later that same owner-trainer tandem tallied again when their bay colt Albano, ridden by Kerwin Clark, proved clearly best with a 1 ¼- length tally in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes. What happens next?
“We’ll do what we always do,” said Larry Jones on Sunday morning. “We’ll try to get on the Triple Crown trail with Albano, try to bring him up to the (Grade III) Lecomte (Jan 18), go on and shoot next for the (Grade II) Risen Star (Feb. 22) and then the (Grade II) Louisiana Derby (March 29). The idea is rack up enough points to get on to the Kentucky Derby, but of course we have to take these things one step at a time.
“With Divine Beauty, she’ll pretty much do the same beat we’ve always done, too,” Jones said. “Try to get her ready for the (listed) Silverbulletday (Jan. 18), go on to the (Grade III) Rachel Alexandra (Feb. 22) and then the (Grade II) Fair Grounds Oaks (March 29).”
The Jones plans come as no surprise to Fair Grounds fans.
Larry Jones became the first conditioner to sweep Fair Grounds’ three-race series of Kentucky Derby preps with Fox Hill Farm and Vinery Stables’ Friesan Fire in 2009. Together the Jones Boys’ Proud Spell in 2008 and Believe You Can last season parlayed a win in the Fair Grounds Oaks to another in the Kentucky Oaks.
However, no filly has ever swept Fair Grounds three-race series of Kentucky Oaks preps. Proud Spell didn’t run in the first leg of the series and Believe You Can finished fourth in the Rachel Alexandra.
“We’ll just keep trying until we get it right,” Larry Jones said with a smile. “As for Albano, (a half-brother to the Jones’ tandem’s Mark Valesk, second by a nose in the Risen Star and by a half-length in the Louisiana Derby) – we’ll just hope he turns out to be a few steps better than his older brother.”
VETERAN JOCKEY DAVID FLORES LEAVING FOR SINGAPORE—Veteran jockey David Flores, who won Saturday’s $75,000 Tenacious and $75,000 “Buddy” Diliberto handicaps at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Santa Super Saturday for trainer Steve Asmussen, has completed his assignments at the local oval to pursue an international opportunity in Singapore.
Flores has been among the top jockeys on the Southern California circuit for a number of years, chose to join the local colony at Fair Grounds this winter but now leaves to join the Singapore Turf Club.
Thoroughbred racing in Singapore takes place at the Kranji race course under the banner of the Malayan Racing Association (an association of four turf clubs) with year-round racing at Kranji on selected Wednesday and Friday nights, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
However, the highlight of the racing year takes place in May with the running of the $3 million Group I Singapore Airlines International Cup.
Before leaving the Crescent City, Flores talked of his immediate future.
“I’m going home to California to spend time with my family but I am due to arrive in Singapore on Dec. 26,” Flores said. “I’m definitely going to miss this place, but my Singapore contract is only for six months.
“This is a great place to ride,” said Flores, speaking of his first time riding on a regular basis at Fair Grounds this winter. “I definitely want to come back here next year. This is a great place to ride and I love the city and I love the Fair Grounds. This place is awesome. It has great horses, great trainers and a great jockey colony.”
ANOTHER HERNANDEZ JOCKEY DEBUTS: LITTLE SISTER COURTNEY —Veteran Fair Grounds-based jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., son of still-active jockey Brian Hernandez Sr. and brother of Colby Hernandez, who has ridden sporadically here this winter, has now been joined by another member of the family as an active rider.
Little sister Courtney Hernandez, 19, is now accepting mounts at Delta Downs.
“I watched my father ride and my little brothers grow up in the business,” Courtney said Saturday while speaking over the phone from western Louisiana. “My brothers have been very successful and I can’t say I ever thought about doing anything else with my own life. Maybe I can come to ride a horse at Fair Grounds later in the meet.”