NEW ORLEANS (Sunday, January 22, 2012) – Trainer Larry Jones was all smiles during training hours at Fair Grounds Sunday morning – and that for at least two reasons.

Late Saturday afternoon, Jones saddled former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones’s Mr. Bowling to register a tenacious head victory in Fair Grounds’ Grade III Lecomte Stakes in the centerpiece race of Fair Grounds’ Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone.

Five races earlier during the New Orleans oval’s expanded banner afternoon, that same down-home western Kentucky-born conditioner with the constant cowboy hat sent out that same former Kentucky governor’s Believe You Can to win the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes – first significant stepping stone to the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks.

So now the Jones boys have early favorites for the Grade II Louisiana Derby April 1 as well as its feminine counterpart for 3-year-old fillies March 31, and in the interim, Mr. Bowling will be pointed for the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 25 and Believe You Can will be directed to the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes that same afternoon at the Crescent City oval.

“Yesterday was a good day, that’s for sure,” said Jones Sunday – as always a master of the understatement. “The Governor was also very happy about the whole thing. He couldn’t make it down here yesterday, but I’ve probably talked to him more on the phone yesterday and again this morning more than we have in a long time. He’s still very excited about how things went yesterday”

How did the trainer and his wife and chief assistant Cindy Jones celebrate Saturday night?

“Well, my aunt and uncle are in town for a couple of days,” Jones said, “so Cindy and I just went back to the apartment and then they came over and brought us a sandwich,” Jones said. “That was our celebration.”

Of course, it has also been a good week for the Joneses. Last Monday night, they were in Southern California attending the Eclipse Awards dinner when the Jones-trained Havre de Grace, owned by Fox Hill Farm, was named 2011 Horse of the Year, but by Tuesday they were back in New Orleans and then back at the barn before daylight Wednesday morning.