John Jones gunning for third Jennings title
John Jones prior to winning the 2017 Jennings Stakes at Laurel Park. Photo by Dottie Miller.
Matt Schera’s John Jones, a stakes winner on both turf and dirt for trainer Lacey Gaudet, will be racing at his favorite course and distance as he goes after a third career victory in the $75,000 Jennings.
A gelded 8-year-old son of 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Smarty Jones, John Jones will break from the rail in a field of nine under jockey Trevor McCarthy, Maryland’s leading rider in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019. He is 7-2 on the morning line.
John Jones finished third or better in five of nine starts last year with two wins, one of them coming Aug. 17 in track-record fashion for a mile on dirt at Colonial Downs. It followed a season where he was winless in eight tries and was his best campaign since winning six of 13 races and more than $250,000 in 2016.
“In 2018, he didn’t win a race. Then to come back and have such a great campaign in 2019, it’s so much fun,” Gaudet said. “He always tries. If it’s a race where he gets beat or he’s off the board, it’s no fault of his own. He just had such a wonderful campaign last year and I think a lot of the spots really lined up for him. He loves that one-turn mile at Colonial. It was a fun year for him and I really hope he can follow it up in 2020.”
John Jones won the Jennings in 2016 and 2017 and was third in his bid for a three-peat in 2018, when the race was run at the end of December. It was moved to the first stakes weekend of the year for 2020
“We had for months kind of planned that the race was going to be in December, but really a difference of 18 days is not a problem. He had a nice little blowout [Tuesday] morning and he’s all prepared for it,” Gaudet said. “He’s primed and ready to go.”
In his most recent race, a third-level optional claimer Dec. 14 at Laurel, John Jones took a short lead into the stretch but wound up second by a length going seven furlongs over a sloppy, sealed track. He is 10-for-30 lifetime at Laurel, and eight-for-14 for his career at the one-mile distance.
“I’m excited,” Gaudet said. “I think the steps that we’ve taken with him to cut back a little bit and now stretching him back out to a mile, I hope it’s going to help him. I think that it will.”
Among John Jones’ foes will be Runnymede Racing’s multiple stakes winner Alwaysmining (8-5), making his third start off nearly a five-month layoff. The 4-year-old Stay Thirsty gelding was beaten two lengths when fifth in his return in the six-furlong Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial Dec. 7, then was second to another son of Smarty Jones, Someday Jones, in the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer Dec. 28.
Trainer Kelly Rubley also entered Lead Off Stable’s Pretty Good Year, a 4-year-old Great Notion gelding that ran third in the Maryland Million Turf and is exiting a 1 ½-length allowance win Dec. 7.
Multiple stakes winners Bonus Points and Clubman; Bustoff, a winner of seven of his last eight starts; 12-time winner Jeezum Jim; Toughest ‘Ombre, second in the Copingaway Stakes on turf Sept. 7 at Gulfstream Park; and Tappin Cat, third in the 2019 Maryland Million Classic, complete the field.
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