By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Tyler Jones was in high school the first time his father, trainer Dustin Jones, won a Breeders Crown. Twelve years later, Jones will be in the sulky trying to win another for his dad.
Jones, a former social worker who turned to driving fulltime in 2021, will sit behind Tactical Planner in Friday’s $600,000 Breeders Crown championship for 2-year-old female trotters at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The filly, who finished eighth in last week’s single elimination to grab the final spot in the field, will start from post two.
And while Tactical Planner will be a longshot in a group that includes elimination winner Special Way, Jim Doherty Memorial champ Instagram Model, and Peaceful Way winner Righteous Resolve, Jones needs only to think back to his father’s victory in this event in 2010 with Martiniontherocks at odds of 30-1 for inspiration.
“You never know what can happen in a final,” Jones said. “Especially with 2-year-old trotting fillies.”
Tactical Planner and Jones have already provided a surprise this season, capturing the Pure Ivory Series final at odds of 67-1 in August at Woodbine Mohawk Park. It is the filly’s only victory in eight races, but not for a lack of ability in Jones’ eyes.
“She’s a quirky filly,” Jones said about the daughter of Tactical Landing-Dressed To Impress that he co-owns with Andrea Lea Racing Stables. “She’s super talented, but all summer she just had an issue here, an issue there.
“Finally, we sort of settled everything up and we schooled her, and she was awesome. I thought her start when she came home in :27 (finishing fifth against 3-year-olds on Oct. 13) was maybe her best race.”
Jones’ father Dustin is no stranger to success. His past stars include 1994 Canadian Horse of the Year Emilie Cas El and O’Brien Award-winner Wheeling N Dealin, who won the second of the stable’s two Breeders Crown trophies in the 2012 final for 2-year-old male trotters.
“Everyone says my dad is the most optimistic person they’ve ever met when it comes to horse racing,” Jones said. “Anything can go wrong, but tomorrow is another day and another chance. That’s how you have to approach it.”
Jones graduated from college with a degree in criminology and was a social worker for five years while dabbling with driving on the side. This year, he has set highs with 635 starts, 42 wins, and $739,765 in purses. Overall, he has 162 victories and $1.42 million. He got his first win in 2016.
“After Covid hit, I told my parents that I couldn’t do what I was doing anymore; I told them I had to get back into horses,” said Jones, who turns 29 next month. “I figured it’s easier to be a social worker at (age) 50 than a driver at 50. I always thought the horses were my plan ‘B’ but it turns out it was my plan ‘A’ and everything else is plan ‘B.’
“I love it. I can’t get enough of it. It runs in my pedigree.”
No matter the outcome Friday, Jones is looking forward to his Breeders Crown appearance.
“I was talking to a friend, and he said some people drive their whole career and don’t get to a final, so just enjoy it,” Jones said. “That’s the approach I’m going to take.”
All four Breeders Crown finals for 2-year-olds will be held Friday at Mohawk. The finals for horses ages 3 and up will be Saturday. Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) both nights.