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Jones returns to Oaklawn with strong string

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Trainer Larry Jones has a 15-horse string at Oaklawn Park that he said he believes is ripe with young talent.

Jones has brought horses back to Oaklawn for the first time since 2011. He said maybe half of the horses ticketed to winter in Hot Springs could be unraced or have just one career start when the 2019 meeting begins on Jan. 25.

A pair of Jones' horses, lightly raced 2-year-olds Super Steed and Whoa Nellie, have started to build their resumes. Jones said he hopes their path to the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks runs through Oaklawn.

"That is a big reason that we've come, because the 3-year-old program here is second to nobody," Jones said Monday morning. "They've got the best 3-year-old program in the country."

Super Steed, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner and Arkansas Derby runner-up Super Saver, finished second in his Oct. 25 career debut at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., before breaking his maiden in allowance company on Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs.

Whoa Nellie, a daughter of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, won her Nov. 22 career debut at Churchill Downs.

"They kind of got started late," Jones said. "I don't want to give them any time off, per say, but I don't want to race them super hard. But, I would like for them to race, like, once a month, to kind of keep moving forward and getting the experience and kind of get caught up with the rest of the crop."

Jones said Super Steed and Whoa Nellie are targeting stakes races on Dec. 22 at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, where the trainer has 24 horses after splitting his stable.

Super Steed is scheduled to run in the $75,000 Sugar Bowl, with Whoa Nellie headed for the $75,000 Letellier Memorial. Both races are 6 furlongs.

Oaklawn's Kentucky Derby prep series consists of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 25, the Grade 3 $500,000 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18, the Grade 2 $1 million Rebel Stakes on March 16 and the Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 13.

The Grade 1 Kentucky Derby is May 4 at Churchill Downs.

Oaklawn has three major preps leading up to the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, the country's top race for 3-year-old fillies, May 3 at Churchill Downs. They are the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes on Feb. 2, the Grade 3 $200,000 Honeybee Stakes on March 9 and the Grade 3 $500,000 Fantasy Stakes on April 12.

Jones has had success in major 3-year-old prep races at Oaklawn, particularly with fillies. He won the Fantasy in 2003 with Ruby's Reception; the Martha Washington, Honeybee and Fantasy in 2008 with Eight Belles; the Honeybee in 2009 with Just Jenda; and the Honeybee and Fantasy in 2011 with Joyful Victory.

Jones also won the Southwest in 2009 with Old Fashioned. Eight Belles finished second against males in the Kentucky Derby.

Super Steed is co-owned by Mike Pressley, who campaigned Ruby's Reception, Jones' first graded stakes winner. Whoa Nellie is owned by Rick Porter, who raced Eight Belles, Old Fashioned and Joyful Victory.

Porter and Jones also campaigned Havre de Grace, who launched her 2011 Horse of the Year campaign with victories in Oaklawn's Grade 3 Azeri Stakes and Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap.

Oaklawn had 251 horses on the grounds late Monday morning, the first day the track was open for training. Among the trainers with horses on the grounds included Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman, Randy Morse, Ron Moquett, Jinks Fires, Steve Hobby, Donnie K. Von Hemel, Gary Thomas, Paul Holthus, Dan Peitz, Al Cates and newcomer Dallas Stewart.

Normal training hours are 7-9:30 a.m. until further notice. There will be no break to renovate the racing surface.

In addition to David Cabrera, Oaklawn's second-leading rider in 2018, agent Joe Santos said he will represent Israel Rodriguez at the 2019 meeting. Through Monday, Rodriguez was the seventh-leading rider at Camarero Race Track in his native Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez, 23, won with his first United States mount on Feb. 28, 2014, at Laurel Park in Maryland and later rode as an apprentice and journeyman in New York. Santos said Rodriguez is good friends with another Puerto Rican jockey, 2017 Eclipse Award winner Jose Ortiz.

"I was not sure what I was going to do," Santos said, referring to having a second rider in 2019 at Oaklawn. "I called up Jose Ortiz and he sent me him."

Cabrera is the runaway riding leader at the Remington Park in Oklahoma City. The Remington Park meeting ends Dec. 16.

Sports on 12/06/2018

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