Trainer Larry Jones hopes to kick off a successful weekend at Saratoga Race Course when he starts Miss Elsie in the $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares Friday. Miss Elsie is to be accompanied from Delaware Park by Jones' Prioress (gr. I) champ, Wildcat Bettie B, scheduled to run in the $250,000 Darley Test (gr. I) for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.If Jones' record when he ships horses to the New York circuit can be used as an indicator, bettors would do well to pay attention.In the last 26 months, Jones has managed two grade I victories and a grade II score on this circuit, paying $10 with Island Sand in the 2004 Acorn (gr. I), $12.80 with Wildcat Bettie B in the 2006 Prioress, and $21.20 with Hello Liberty in the 2006 Nassau County (gr. II).And he's only run seven horses.Based at Delaware Park this summer, Miss Elsie faces five rivals in the six-furlong Honorable Miss.Miss Elsie has been competing in minor stakes at Oaklawn and Delaware Park this season, so she is a bit of a wildcard in graded stakes company. She has finished worse than third just once from eight starts this year. By Golden Gear, Miss Elsie enters the Honorable Miss on the heels of a two-length victory in Delaware's Light Hearted, her sixth lifetime score at six furlongs."She's had a good year," said Jones, a former commercial farmer who grew corn, tobacco, and soy beans before he began training Thoroughbreds in 1982. "I feel the time is right to step up and see if we can beat better horses. She's coming to Saratoga in great shape."It's going to be a big weekend and, hopefully, we continue to get lucky," Jones said. "We've been overwhelmed and flabbergasted by the success we've had (shipping to New York.) We've brought the right horses up, but we've also gotten lucky. It's not going to last forever, but both my horses are doing fantastic and, hopefully, we can have a little more luck this weekend."Trainer H. Allen Jerkens shoots for his first Honorable Miss score in 12 years with Grecian Lover. A filly by Friendly Lover, Grecian Lover has gone 2-3-1 from 10 starts this year. She found the likes of Take D' Tour, Dubai Escapade and Balletto too tough to handle earlier this summer, but dropped out of stakes company and scored a comfortable optional claiming victory at Belmont three weeks ago.
Early Tuesday morning, Grecian Lover breezed a half mile over the main track in :48 2/5. Reunited won five of eights starts as a 3-year-old, including the TCA at Keeneland (gr. III) last October. Although she's raced just once this year, a fifth-place finish in the May 27th Winning Colors at Churchill, Reunited has been tearing up the worktab. She worked five furlongs over the Saratoga main track on July 24 in :59 3/5, handily. Before leaving Churchill, Reunited earned the 'bullet' for the day's fastest workout on three different mornings.Trainer Neil Howard said Reunited exited the Winning Colors with a cut inside her mouth."That messed us up because it took her a while to get going again," he said.
Reunited, who scored a second-level allowance win over the Saratoga main track last August, teams up with jockey Edgar Prado. The always-formidable duo of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez have tabbed Ever Elusive for the Honorable Miss. Although she has a ways to go before she earns back her $1 million auction price, Ever Elusive has improved as a 4-year-old, going 3-for-5 this season. She defeated Reunited in the Winning Colors. The James Chapman-trained Malibu Mint shocked nearly everyone with a huge 23-1 upset in the Princess Rooney (gr. I) at Calder a few weeks ago. The Honorable Miss will help prove whether Malibu Mint's 114 Beyer in the Princess Rooney was a fluke. $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Grecian Lover (FL), 114, Mike E. Smith
2. Malibu Mint (KY), 118, Josue' Arce
3. Reunited (KY), 116, Edgar S. Prado
4. Ever Elusive (KY), 115, John R. Velazquez
5. Stormy Kiss (ARG), 114, Javier Castellano
6. Miss Elsie (KY), 115, Mario G. Pino