Trainer Larry Jones says a workout by Mark Valeski will determine whether the Proud Citizen colt will be entered in the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
After Brereton Jones’ homebred galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill Downs April 29, the trainer said the colt needs to convince him during a breeze scheduled for April 30 that he belongs in the starting gate for the 1 1/4-mile classic.
“He has to work well tomorrow,” said Jones, no relation to the owner. “I told Brereton, if he’s doing better than he’s ever done before, then let’s do it. We did the same thing with (Derby runner-up) Eight Belles. That’s the only thing Rick (Porter, owner of Eight Belles) asked me, he said, ‘Look, if she’s not doing better than she’s ever done, we’ll just run in the Oaks.’ And I had to tell him that’s the best she had ever been, and she showed it when she ran.
“My horse has to show me he’s worthy. Although I like the way he’s coming in and he has the earnings to make it, it’s not 100% that he’s going to run. He’s got to do it right tomorrow and he’s got to look really good Tuesday morning (May 1) and Wednesday morning (May 2) before entries. He has to show me the work did nothing but help him.”
Jones, who was aboard the colt for his April 29 gallop, said Mark Valeski will work alone April 30. Retired jockey Larry Melancon will be aboard.
“I’m not going to put one out there that can’t keep up with him because I don’t want him stopping and waiting for him. We’re not going to be hammering on him.
“This is the first time, this week, that this horse has ever really taken any hold of me galloping. It’s like he’s finally getting to focusing and getting to thinking, 'OK, I am a racehorse.' The rest of it has been sheer talent.”
Mark Valeski has finished second in the Risen Star (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II), both at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
“Going into the Risen Star (gr. II) I was leading him over thinking, man, you’re fat. He ain’t fat now, and he ain’t skinny, either; he’s all man right now.”
Jones addressed the lost left-front shoe that may have impaired Mark Valeski in the Louisiana Derby, where he finished second behind $220 shocker Hero of Order. The shoe most likely came off when the colt was coming on to the track when Mark Valeski stumbled slightly.
It also could have been tossed right out of the gate, when he bumped with stablemate Mr. Bowling. The colt ran all with only three shoes and also injured one of his hind feet in the Louisiana Derby.
“Apparently my horse on the inside (Mr. Bowling) hit him leaving the gate,” Jones said. “They kind of got tangled up and he tore the bulb off his back foot. It just wasn’t meant to be that day. As much stuff as we had that didn’t go right and with a $220 horse that was just divine intervention, we have to throw that one out. What all happened that day can’t happen twice.
“He got clipped from behind--by our other horse, I’m sure--but we’re good now. We’ve got the bulb all healed up and we did have to get a special shoe to make sure the dirt didn’t hit him while he was training, to press the dirt down where it couldn’t get up and it could heal, and it has. He’s just getting better all the time.”