Larry Jones is back and racing is the better for it. The 56-year-old trainer, who retired at the top of his game on Nov. 7, 2009 and returned in early 2011 with the same fervor as the day he left. Anyone talking with the personable Kentuckian could recognize that in a heartbeat.
“She shipped in really good,” Jones said of the 4-year-old gray daughter of Tapit, owned by the Fox Hill Farms of Rick Porter. “She was training well. We didn’t have to come to California just for the fun of it, but she was training so well, we felt now was the time to give her that opportunity.
“I’ve never been to Santa Anita, so this is the first time, and I’ve always heard maybe the track was like this (pointing to a freshly watered-down patch of hard dirt outside his shed row), but it’s not. They’ve got a lot of cushion on it and the horse really galloped well (three-quarters of a mile) over it today. It’s a track that we’re kind of used to, so I thought it was a lovely track.
“She just got off the plane the night before last. We had all the preps done so all we have to do is keep her loose and happy.”
Joyful Victory has raced at seven different tracks in her 12-race career, with a 4-3-2 record and earnings of $575,068, so she doesn’t have to carry her track around with her, as the saying goes.
“She’s done pretty well on all of them,” Jones said. “She’s a very good-moving filly, but I’ll be honest with you. I think she’s going to be OK on this track. She acts like she got over it very well this morning.”
Rosie Napravnik rides Joyful Victory for the first time in the Zenyatta. Jones has every confidence in the 24-year-old rider from Morristown, N.J., the daughter of a blacksmith and a show horse trainer. In 2006, she was runner-up to Julien Leparoux for the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Apprentice.
“We’re real proud of her,” Jones said. “She won the (Kentucky) Oaks for me this year (on Believe You Can). I put her in some big-name races already and she shows up every time. I started riding her maybe in 2006 and she just performed every time.
“I think she’s one of the most talented riders—boy, girl or whatever—in the country. We’re very proud to have her on this filly. She’s never gotten to ride her. She’s ridden with her and she’s worked against her in the morning. We’ve always had her on Believe You Can and sometimes we’ll work them together. She’s seen this filly, so she knows her.”
As for his brief personal break, Jones took time to smell the roses. “We were very blessed,” said Jones, a former commercial farmer whose signature 10-gallon hat makes him readily recognizable. “Rick Porter said he would give me some top-notch horses if I would come back and train, and my wife (Cindy) took over for a year and let me catch my breath and take care of some health issues.
“Anyway, we are back, we’re on a lot smaller scale (44 in training) which is really good, and we still have a lot of quality. Between Rick and Barry Jones and my wife, they made it to where I could come back and be at the top still.”
The field for the Zenyatta, formerly the Lady’s Secret, which goes as race eight of 11: Amani, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Love Theway Youare, David Flores, 12-1; Switch, Garrett Gomez, 7-2; Joyful Victory, Rosie Napravnik, 12-1; Star Billing, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Include Me Out, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Love and Pride, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Via Villagio, Martin Pedroza, 20-1; and Miss Mittagong, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1.
RICHARD’S KID IN GOOD SPOT FOR AWESOME AGAIN
Dennis O’Neill is confident recently acquired Richard’s Kid will give a strong account of himself in Saturday’s first running of the Awesome Again Stakes, formerly the Goodwood Stakes, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
“His Beyers are good and he’s been training unbelievably well on the (dirt) training track at Hollywood,” said the brother of trainer Doug O’Neill, who is reinstated after a 40-day suspension for a 2010 medication violation.
“We’re excited,” Dennis continued. “I think there’s enough speed in there to set it up. I think we should be in a good spot and I love picking up Garrett (jockey Garrett Gomez) for the race. There’s nobody better at coming from behind than him.
“Hopefully we’re sitting in the garden spot and we mow ‘em down. The Del Mar race (third by 3 ¼ lengths in the Pacific Classic after bobbling at the start and encountering traffic at the 5/16 marker) was a throw out. He had a horrendous trip, got left coming out of there and just got dead-stopped when he was trying to make his run.”
Doug, meanwhile, has enjoyed his enforced vacation. “He went to the Michigan-Notre Dame game last weekend and did a lot of fun stuff,” Dennis said.
The field for the Awesome Again, the 10th of 11 races: Game On Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 3-5; Winning Machine, Javier Matias, 20-1; Nonios, Martin Pedroza, 12-1; Groovin’ Solo, David Flores,30-1; Suggestive Boy, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Empire Way, Brice Blanc, 30-1; Richard’s Kid, Garrett Gomez, 9-2; Balladry, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; and Rail Trip, Jose Valdivia Jr., 6-1.
Suggestive Boy worked four furlongs Thursday for Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally in 48 seconds flat with Talamo aboard.
GOMEZ KEEN ON KNOW MORE, BEHOLDER IN 2-YEAR-OLD STAKES
In racing time, it’s light years away to the first Saturday in May, 2013, but Garrett Gomez hopes that Saturday’s inaugural FrontRunner Stakes leads towards his first Kentucky Derby victory.
The 40-year-old jockey rides a promising bay colt named Know More in the Frontrunner, a mile and 1/16 test for 2-year-olds and one of five Grade I “Win and You’re In” Challenge Races to be decided at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O’Neill, whose I’ll Have Another stunned the racing world last year by winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes after capturing the Santa Anita Derby, Know More won the Grade II Best Pal Stakes in his first start, coming from sixth at the half-mile pole in the 6 ½-furlong race at Del Mar on Aug. 5 to win by a half-length.
Next out, Know More and Gomez rallied four wide in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity before finishing second by a length and a quarter as the 17-10 favorite.
“He’s a nice horse that’s willing to cooperate,” Gomez said of the son of Lion Heart purchased for $210,000 at the Barretts sale in May of this year. “You try to adjust in races and he’s willing to try to do that, and I feel that makes him a better horse.
“The way he’s run his first two races, the two turns won’t bother him a bit. He’ll relax early on no matter if he’s real close or behind, depending on what kind of pace there is.
Hopefully he’s seasoned enough where two turns won’t be a big deal.”
On the distaff side Saturday, Gomez rides Beholder for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella in the first edition of the Chandelier Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles. It was formerly run as the Oak Leaf Stakes.
Owned by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes, Beholder broke her maiden in her second start, and then was barely nosed out by undefeated odds-on favorite Executiveprivilege in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 1.
A bay daughter of Henny Hughes, Beholder worked three furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Wednesday in 37.20.
“She’s really started to come around,” said Gomez, who has ridden both the colt and the filly in each of their five combined races. “Her last two races have been very good. I still think she actually won the Debutante. Hopefully the two turns won’t affect her too much.”
Beholder’s Daily Racing Form trouble line for the Debutante reads, “Hit gate start, inside.” Gomez elaborated. “She had the outside (eight) post and when she broke the ground broke out slightly from underneath her and kind of hit the underside of the gate, not so much the side of it, but the bottom of it.
“She was down real low and when she stood up, she hit the gate, but she still only got beat a zop, so hopefully she’ll take to the two turns and find herself in the winner’s circle.”
The field for the FrontRunner: Carving, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Gabriel Charles, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Dirty Swagg, David Flores, 12-1; The Whole Deal, Edwin Maldonado, 50-1; Dry Summer, Rosie Napravnik, 5-1; Imperative, Aaron Gryder, 20-1; Know More, Garrett Gomez, 3-1; Capo Bastone, Victor Espinoza, 7-2; Den’s Legacy, Alonso Quinonez, 12-1; Power Broker, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; and Wild Student, Iggy Puglisi, 50-1.
The field for the Chandelier: Majestic Minister, Aaron Gryder, 20-1; Renee’s Queen, Martin Garcia, 15-1; Switch to the Lead, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; Wittgenstein, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1; Beholder, Gomez, 3-1; Butterfly Soul, Jorge Carreno, 20-1; Executiveprivilege, Rafael Bejarano, 6-5; Scarlet Strike, Joe Talamo, 8-1; Salamera, Angel Castillo, 5-1; Contessa’s Moment, Iggy Puglisi, 30-1; and Miss Empire, Martin Pedroza, 12-1.
USC BAND PERFORMS ‘MY CALIFORNIA’ AT SANTA ANITA SATURDAY
USC’s highly rated football team has the day off Saturday but not its famous Marching Band. It will perform at Santa Anita on Saturday between the seventh and eighth races on the track’s terraced apron, adjacent to the main track.
Among the rousing numbers the band will perform is Santa Anita’s spanking new signature song, “My California.”
BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE TICKET OFFER
Visit Santa Anita on one of three Breeders’ Cup Challenge Days (Sept. 29, 30 and Oct. 6) and on-track fans can purchase a grandstand reserved seat on Breeders’ Cup Friday for just $25 (50% off regular price – sections U-V).
Visit the Santa Anita ticket office or Main THOROUGHBREDS Center to take advantage of this promotion.
FINISH LINES: Crystal Water winner Holladay Road, working towards the $175,000 Lava Man California Cup Classic presented by City National Bank on Oct. 13, went five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Thursday in 1:00.20 for Julio Canani . . . Alex Bisono is back at Santa Anita, represented by agent Brandon O’Bryan. Bisono, working mainly for trainer Eric Kruljac, is a native of New York but now resides in La Verne with his wife, Corrie, and son Avan, five, and daughter Tateym, one . . . Jockey Luis Medina is one of the lightest members of Santa Anita’s riding colony. The 25-year-old native of Puerto Rico, whose agent is Rene San Miguel, tacks 107 pounds.