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Along Came Jones - To Fair Grounds Following Old Fashioned's Remsen Win

Headlines for Friday, December 05, 2008

  • Along Came Jones - To Fair Grounds Following Old Fashioned's Remsen Win
  • Calhoun Saddles Sunday Quartet of Winners While Looking Forward to 2009
  • Bang-Up Beginning for Brian Hernandez Jr. at Fair Grounds
  • Pyro's Risen Star Stakes Win on Ballot as Potential ‘Moment of the Year'


Along Came Jones -To Fair Grounds Following Old Fashioned's Remsen Win

NEW ORLEANS, La. - With New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport just furlongs away from Aqueduct's backstretch, it didn't take trainer Larry Jones long to get out of the Big Apple following Old Fashioned's dominant triumph in last Saturday's Grade II Remsen Stakes.

The conditioner who saddled Proud Spell to win the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks last winter and then the Grade I Kentucky Oaks eight weeks later was back in New Orleans at his Fair Grounds barn during training hours Sunday morning.

However, he won't be settling in yet.  Keeping up with the Joneses' travel plans in the near future encompasses one trip Friday night to Delta Downs to saddle wife Cindy's undefeated filly Just Jenda in Friday's Grade III $500,000 Delta Princess, and next week there is a quick trip to Tucson, Arizona, to accept 2008's "Big Sport of Turfdom" award from the Turf Publicists of America.

That award is presented annually to a person or group of people who have enhanced coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with the media and Thoroughbred racing publicists, and its previous recipients read like a short list of the sport's most respected individuals.

"That's going to be quite an honor," said Jones in his Fair Grounds tack room this week. "It's certainly the highlight of my 28 years of doing this for a living, and I'm very grateful to have been chosen."

Cindy Jones, also in the room, quickly chimed in: "That's why Larry's planning on retiring soon - he wants to go out on top.  What else is there?"

Well, of course, Jones could top it all off with a victory in this spring's Kentucky Derby - maybe with the aforementioned Old Fashioned - or maybe with another 2-year-old colt named Friesan Fire - or still a third promising juvenile named It Happened Again.  In the two most recent Kentucky Derbys, Jones has saddled the runner-up, so maybe with these three latest prospects, the third time will be the charm.

How did Jones review Old Fashioned's race in the Remsen?

"That little colt ran okay," understated Jones about his latest star's 7 1/4-length victory. "He's a nice colt."

Old Fashioned arrived at Fair Grounds on Tuesday.

"Actually, we originally had Friesan Fire penciled in to run in the Remsen," said Jones, "but (Old Fashioned) was doing so well it was easy to make the switch."

Friesan Fire, a son of A. P. Indy owned by Vinery Stables, finished third in Belmont's Grade II Futurity last September 13 and fourth in Aqueduct's Grade III Nashua Stakes Nov. 2.  He breezed five eighths at Fair Grounds in 1:01 1-5 last Saturday.

"Right now, we're pointing both of them to the Lecomte (Jan. 10)," Jones said, "but we'll probably only run one of them and try to keep them apart as long as we can."

As for It Happened Again, who broke his maiden in his most recent start Oct. 14 at Philadelphia Park, his schedule is probably more indefinite, but Jones is no less optimistic.

"That colt has mile and a quarter written all over him," said Jones.

"All three of them have a lot of potential," said Jones. "All three broke their maidens in (sprints) but have the pedigrees to go on and on.  Friesan Fire and It Happened Again are stalkers, and Old Fashioned has a little higher cruising speed but he can come from off the pace if he has to."

With so many good horses coming up in the barn, why would Jones have announced plans to retire from training after all his recent success of the last three years?

"Originally, I wanted to retire (this year)," said Jones, "but with horses like this I realized it would be stupid to quit right now so I've expanded that deadline to '09.  But I've already told my owners, ‘don't send me any more horses other than the ones I've already got.'  I've been doing this for 28 years straight, and it's about time for Cindy and me to pursue some other priorities in our lives."

            Is there anything specific on the retirement horizon?

            "Six grandkids," Cindy Jones said.  "Some of them don't even know who we are yet, but we're going to change all that."


Calhoun Saddles Sunday Quartet of Winners While Looking Forward to 2009

            Bret Calhoun became the first trainer this season to saddle four winners on a single Fair Grounds program Sunday, but that achievement pales in comparison to what the Texas-born conditioner is hoping to accomplish before the local season ends March 29.

            In September 2007, Calhoun went to the Keeneland yearling sale and picked out three horses for prominent owner and fellow Texan Clarence Scharbauer, whose family won the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Alysheba.

            One of those - Scharbauer's Silver City - won last Saturday's third race at Churchill Downs by 4 1/2 lengths.

"(Silver City) won that race very impressively," said Calhoun.  "We wanted him to run a little bit to see exactly what we had.  He'd been working well in the mornings and now he's showing us that he's as good as we thought might be.  In his first race last June (Silver City's lone defeat in three starts) he got away a little tardy and finished third down on the inside.  He came up with a little stress fracture in that race so we gave him some time off and brought him back in the fall (where he broke his maiden at Keeneland Oct. 24 before last Saturday's Churchill score)."

Scharbauer paid $700,000 for Silver City, but also gave $600,000 at the same sale for a colt by A. P. Indy now named Indygo Mountain.  That one broke his maiden at Churchill Nov. 19 with a 6 1/4-length tally.

"We're going to try and keep them separate, but for the time being we're going to point them both toward the Lecomte (Jan. 10)," said Calhoun.  "Sooner or later, they'll have to meet up and bump along the way. Mr. Scharbauer is getting along in years now, and we want to get him back to the Derby anyway we can.  It's one of the things he can look forward to right now."

Scharbauer's third purchase at that same Keeneland sale was a yearling who is a half-sister to multiple classic winner Afleet Alex. That filly is also high on Calhoun's radar screen, if not as yet on the public's profile.

Asked about last Sunday's four-bagger, Calhoun downplayed his training feat.

"I figured someone must have already done it (saddled four winners this season)," said Calhoun.  "I didn't know I was the first.  Sunday turned out to be a great day, but I wasn't really expecting it to be that great.  Usually, it works the other way.  You think you're going to have a great day and things don't go as planned."

Interestingly, Calhoun's four-win Sunday was accomplished with four different riders.

"This is a very strong rider colony we have this year," said Calhoun.  "There are a lot of riders down here that I would use on my horses without any hesitation at all.  The colony is that good."


Bang Up Beginning for Brian Hernandez Jr. at Fair Grounds

Talk about kicking off a racing season with a bang.  How hot is jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.?

On Nov. 22, Hernandez won Fair Grounds $60,000 Pontalba Stakes with Pam Edel's C Karma, returned to the winner's circle the following Thursday to garner the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap aboard Savorthetime Stables' Sok Sok, and completed his Crescent City stakes triple the next afternoon astride Kinsman Stable's Classic Campaign in the $60,000 "Buddy" Diliberto Memorial Handicap

Then, last Saturday, Hernandez "book-ended" the 10-race Fair Grounds program with a win on Chrysalis Stables' Indian Silver in the opener and wrapped up the day with a tally on Merrill Scherer and Dan Lynch's Heatnpain in the finale.  Last Sunday, he took the fifth with Stonestreet Stables' Nuclear Wayne.

What's the secret to his fast start at Fair Grounds this season as opposed to one year ago?

"A lot of luck," said Hernandez, "but also a change in my schedule.

"Last year, I didn't leave Kentucky until after the Churchill meet ended, and by the time we got down here, there was not much business for us," Hernandez said.  "This year, we left Churchill after the first week of their meeting and came down here early to build our business.

"Leaving early gave me the chance to hook back up with a lot of the Louisiana horsemen," added the 23-year-old Hernandez, whose father and brother are also Louisiana-based riders.  "However, fortunately I've been able to ride for guys like Steve Asmussen (Sok Sok's trainer) and Bill Mott (Classic Campaign's conditioner).  When you ride for guys like that you're going to ride a lot of good horses."

Hernandez won the 2004 Eclipse Award for champion apprentice jockey, capping that campaign at Fair Grounds. Coincidentally, Hernandez won a stakes race in his first day as a journeyman during the local 2004-05 season.

Interestingly, the last four Eclipse apprentice winners have been regulars at Fair Grounds in recent years - Hernandez, Emma-Jayne Wilson, Julien Leparoux and Joe Talamo.


Pyro's Risen Star Stakes Win on Ballot as Potential ‘Moment of the Year'

            Voting is underway at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Web site, ntra.com, for the 10th annual "NTRA Moment of the Year."

            One of the 12 potential "Moment of the Year" images involves Pyro charging past all 10 of his foes in the stretch to take last February's Grade III Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on his way to a similar dramatic score in last March's Grade II Louisiana Derby.

            All racing fans can vote on their favorite moment of the year, and those selecting the winning image automatically will be entered in a drawing for a Toshiba flat-screen TV, courtesy of NTRA Advantage.  The winning moment will be recognized at the Jan. 26, 2009, Eclipse Awards ceremony in Miami.