Hopefully, for trainer Larry Jones and his owner, former Governor of Kentucky Brereton Jones, the magic of a winter campaign in New Orleans will happen again once again at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
On Dec. 21, when Fair Grounds ran its Santa Super Saturday program four days before Christmas, the Jones Boys teamed up to win both of the afternoon's stakes races for 2-year-olds with a promising pair of juveniles who will become 3-year-olds on New Year's Day.
The Jones-owned and Jones-trained aptly-named bay filly Divine Beauty, ridden by Fair Grounds defending rider champion Rosie Napravnik, scored an impressive 6 1/2-length victory in the $60,000 Letellier Memorial and four races later that same owner-trainer tandem tallied again when their bay colt Albano, ridden by Kerwin Clark, proved clearly best with a 1 1/4- length tally in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes. What happens next?
“We'll do what we always do,” said Larry Jones on Sunday morning. “We'll try to get on the Triple Crown trail with Albano, try to bring him up to the (Grade III) Lecomte (Jan 18), go on and shoot next for the (Grade II) Risen Star (Feb. 22) and then the (Grade II) Louisiana Derby (March 29). The idea is rack up enough points to get on to the Kentucky Derby, but of course we have to take these things one step at a time.
“With Divine Beauty, she'll pretty much do the same beat we've always done, too,” Jones said. “Try to get her ready for the (listed) Silverbulletday (Jan. 18), go on to the (Grade 3) Rachel Alexandra (Feb. 22) and then the (Grade 2) Fair Grounds Oaks (March 29).”
The Jones plans come as no surprise to Fair Grounds fans.
Larry Jones became the first conditioner to sweep Fair Grounds' three-race series of Kentucky Derby preps with Fox Hill Farm and Vinery Stables' Friesan Fire in 2009. Together the Jones Boys' Proud Spell in 2008 and Believe You Can last season parlayed a win in the Fair Grounds Oaks to another in the Kentucky Oaks.
However, no filly has ever swept Fair Grounds three-race series of Kentucky Oaks preps. Proud Spell didn't run in the first leg of the series and Believe You Can finished fourth in the Rachel Alexandra.
“We'll just keep trying until we get it right,” Larry Jones said with a smile. “As for Albano, (a half-brother to the Jones' tandem's Mark Valeski, second by a nose in the Risen Star and by a half-length in the Louisiana Derby) – we'll just hope he turns out to be a few steps better than his older brother.”
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