by Doug McCoy
It’s Preakness week, and the Jones Gang is in town!
Trainer Larry Jones, who flirted with death after being critically injured in an accident during training hours at Delaware Park last April, is back doing what he does best: training top flight horses and winning big races. He and his long time patron, owner-breeder and former governor of the state of Kentucky, Brereton Jones, come to Baltimore riding high after their victory in the Kentucky Oaks with Lovely Maria. On Friday one of the top runners from the Jones & Jones team will be in action when $688,000 earner Albano suits up for the Grade III $300,000 Pimlico Special at a mile and three sixteenths.
Albano will be one of three Jones conditioned runners slated to see action on the Black Eyed Suzan card. Jones will send out Blue Violet for owner-breeder Susan Knoll in the nine furlong Grade III $150,000 Allaire Dupont Distaff in the 10th race on the 14 race program, while in the Grade III $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness the trainer will saddle Divine Dawn as that one represents Tommy Ligon and Michael Pressley.
“We like running at Pimlico,” said Jones, known for fielding competitive fillies. “We won the Miss Preakness with Wildcat Bettie B (in 2006), and we’ve won the DuPont, with Buy the Barrel (in 2008). I know these races always come up tough, but we like that.”
Blue Violet, who Jones thought might have been good enough to think about trying top company in the Delaware Handicap nearly a year ago, has been a puzzling sort, turning in some indifferent efforts while racing at three different tracks last fall. But she came off a three month break with a strong second in the Grade III Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland while reverting to her best style of racing close to the lead from the start.
Divine Dawn, who has been no worse than second in two starts sprinting in her career, comes off a strong second to unbeaten Miss Ella in the Grade II Beaumont at Keeneland and showed her readiness for the Miss Preakness with a dazzling five furlong work of :58 flat at Delaware Sunday, working more than a second faster than Albano that morning.
So it’s springtime in the Mid-Atlantic, and Larry Jones is back doing what he loves to do: training and getting on his own horses at Delaware every morning and sending out winners in the afternoon.