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Trainer Larry Jones - Road Warrior

Headlines for Tuesday, March 10, 2009

  • Trainer Larry Jones - Road Warrior
  • Traveling Jockey Agent Sandwiches in Airline Career
  • Five Louisiana Derby Entrants Listed in Kentucky Derby Future Wager
  • Half of FG Oaks Field Part of Kentucky Oaks Future Wager


Trainer Larry Jones - Road Warrior

NEW ORLEANS, La. - His daddy was a long distance truck driver, so maybe it's in the genes, but trainer Larry Jones, who has morning-line favorite Friesan Fire slated for Saturday's $600,000 Grade II Louisiana Derby in New Orleans, also has Old Fashioned running in the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park that afternoon, so lately it's been "like father, like son" for the hands-on conditioner.

Jones hauls his own horses on the road, and when they get to where they are going, he often also gallops them when they go to the track.  That combination has left little time for sleep in recent days.

"The way I figure it," said Jones Monday as he sat astride his pony "Pal" during the mid-morning break in training hours, "I've had one half-hour nap in the last 24 hours."

That's because on Sunday morning he worked Old Fashioned at Oaklawn, stayed for the races in Hot Springs to watch Maren's Meadow run in the Grade III Azeri Stakes there, and then drove back to New Orleans to supervise the Monday Fair Grounds works of Friesan Fire, Grade II New Orleans Handicap favorite Honest Man and Duncan F. Kenner Stakes top contender Kodiak Kowboy in advance of their Saturday engagements. 

Then, on Monday afternoon he drove back to Oaklawn.

"I thought I was going to get a chance to get about an hour nap before I went back to Hot Springs," said Jones while still on his pony Monday morning, "but Fair Grounds is having their Louisiana Derby draw ... later this morning and they want me to attend."

No wonder film producers John and Brad Hennegan are currently shooting a documentary about Jones and the schedule he keeps, with John Hennegan filming Friesan Fire in the Louisiana Derby while his brother covers Old Fashioned at Oaklawn Saturday.

"Here we have a guy in our industry that is at the top of the game, but also is doing the menial tasks," John Hennegan said. "He's willing to do chores and drive the van.  We really want to focus on that aspect of him, as well as him being a family man.  We see him as not driven by the bottom line.  It's unique and inspiring."

The Hennegan brothers won an Eclipse Award for their documentary "The First Saturday in May" about the 2006 Kentucky Derby.

Jones will be at Oaklawn Saturday with Old Fashioned, while wife Cindy will stay at Fair Grounds with Friesan Fire, Honest Man and Kodiak Kowboy.

Did Jones have a certain lucky spot at Oaklawn to watch his runners on the television?

"Well, I thought I did but I may have to change it," Jones said.  "It hasn't been working lately. Maren's Meadow ran last in the Azeri."

Traveling Jockey Agent Sandwiches in Airline Career

One offbeat story angle leading up to Fair Grounds' Louisiana Derby Day presented by Budweiser concerns the secondary employment of Ruben Munoz, jockey agent for Fair Grounds-based rider Gabriel Saez.

Saez is slated to ride all of trainer Larry Jones' stakes participants on Louisiana Derby Day, including Louisiana Derby morning-line choice Friesan Fire.

However, procuring those mounts for Saez is Munoz - a jockey agent who enjoys a second career traveling internationally as a flight attendant for American Airlines.

"Rest assured that this job here on the racetrack is my main job," said Munoz when asked about his alternate career that has him flying out of Miami to places like Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, three times a month. 

"You don't find too many jockey agents willing fly all over the world making contacts for their rider," joked Jones.  "The other day, he had to call me from Rio.  But seriously, whenever I need to get in touch with Ramon, he always gets back to me right away.  It's never been a problem between us."

Asked if his traveling schedule caused problems with any other horsemen, Munoz said, "I only get teased about it from other agents, but the way I look at it, I don't need to be sitting around in the racing office all day to do my job well.

"Being a jockey agent is a lot of work," said Munoz.  "I didn't get to where I am in this business by doing this job on an airplane.  I owe Larry and all the owners everything for allowing me to continue my airline career."

It should also be remembered that while having Munoz in charge of his engagements, Saez guided Proud Spell to victory in last year's Fair Grounds Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, and also rode Eight Belles to a runner-up finish in last year's Kentucky Derby.

Although born in Puerto Rico, Munoz grew up in the shadow of New York's Yankee Stadium - befriending Yankee outfielder Mickey Rivers - another racing fan.  The two hung out together in the mornings at Belmont Park while his uncle Frank Mendez galloped horses for Frank "Pancho" Martin, New York's top trainer at that time.

Later, Munoz continued his racetrack education living in Middle Eastern Thoroughbred racing centers such as Dubai and Bahrain, but began his career as a flight attendant 20 years ago.

The tragedy of 9/11 temporarily interrupted that career, and two month laters, when an American Airlines plane crashed in the New York City area, Munoz lost several close friends who were members of the crew of that ill-fated flight.

"I had to think about what I really wanted to do with my life," said Munoz of that seminal time, "and I'd always loved life around the racetrack so I decided to try being a jockey agent."

Carlos Gonzalez, hanging his tack at Fair Grounds for the first time this winter, was one of the riders Munoz teamed with at the beginning.  Along the way, Munoz also worked with Miguel Mena - a top 10 rider in New Orleans for the last two winters - but brought Saez up from Panama in 2006.

"In addition to those mounts for Larry on Louisiana Derby Day, we're also riding a couple of mounts for Mark Casse and Dale Romans," Munoz said.  "We should finish up our last couple of weeks here in New Orleans real strong. 

"As for where any of these Louisiana Derby Day mounts might go after Saturday, I can only dream," Munoz said.  "Whoever doesn't dream in this sport shouldn't be in it."


Five Louisiana Derby Entrants Listed in Kentucky Derby Future Wager        

            Pool 2 of the 2009 Kentucky Derby Future Wager opens its four-day run Thursday at 11 a.m. CDT, and will feature exacta wagering for the first time since the Future Wager was introduced in 1999.

New Orleans racing fans will quickly realize that half of Saturday's Louisiana Derby field is among Pool 2's individual interests.

            Louisiana Derby 5-2 morning line favorite Friesan Fire will open at 12-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Pool this weekend, with Patena and Papa Clem at 15-1 followed by Flying Pegasus and Giant Oak at 20-1.


Half of FG Oaks Field Part of Kentucky Oaks Future Wager

Rachel Alexandra, the 4-5 morning line favorite for Saturday's Grade II $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks as part of the Louisiana Derby Day program, will open as the 6-1 slight second choice in this year's lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, which opens on Thursday at 11 a.m. CDT and closes Sunday at 5:30 p.m. CDT.

The morning-line favorite in the Oaks Future wager is 2-year-old filly champion Stardom Bound at 5-1.

Four Gifts, 5-2 second choice in the morning line for Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks, will open at 20-1 in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager. Also listed as an individual interest in the Oaks wager is Our Dahlia, at 30-1 on the morning line.

Three of the last four winners of the Fair Grounds Oaks have gone on to capture the Kentucky Oaks, including 2008 winner Proud Spell, who used the Fair Grounds Oaks as a springboard to an Eclipse Award-winning campaign.