When Larry Jones sent Just Jenda up to Monmouth Park for last month’s Serena’s Song Stakes, he was hoping to find out if his 3-year-old filly liked the track. The answer was a definitive yes, as the daughter of Menifee romped by 8 1/4 lengths for her fourth stakes win.
That result could spell doom for the nine rivals that will face Just Jenda in the $200,000 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. III) Aug. 15 in Oceanport, N.J., as the chestnut filly looms a tough customer in the 1 1/16-mile main track event.
“We had the Oaks in mind when we sent her up for the Serena’s Song,” said Jones, who trains Just Jenda for his wife, Cindy. “We wanted to find out whether she liked the track. And she definitely liked it. From the figures we’ve gotten, it looks like that was her lifetime best race.”
Just Jenda has been a consistent filly throughout her short career. Last season as 2-year-old, she won two of three starts, and this year she has compiled a 3-1-2 mark in six races. That record includes a victory in the March 15 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) and a third-place finish behind superstar Rachel Alexandra in the April 5 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II)—both at Oaklawn Park.
“Probably the biggest mistake I’ve made as a trainer,” Jones said about that encounter with Rachel. “I ducked her at Fair Grounds, but ran against her at Oaklawn. I knew there was no way to beat her, so I told the jockey (Gabriel Saez) to ride to get second. But we couldn’t even do that. At least it didn’t break our filly’s heart.”
Just Jenda rebounded from that 11 3/4-length loss to run second in the Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs May 2, and then run a career best in the Serena’s Song here.
Stabled at Delaware Park, Just Jenda turned in a bullet work Aug. 10, getting five furlongs in :59.80.
“I didn’t see the work,” Jones said. “But my wife was in charge, and said it was just what she wanted. And with this filly, when she works fast, she runs fast.”
Jones says he is retiring as a trainer after Breeders’ Cup day on Nov. 7, and his wife Cindy will be the trainer in the family after that.
Just Jenda was bred in Kentucky by Lavin Bloodstock and is out of the Pine Bluff mare Liberty School. Saez will have the mount and break from post 3.
Among those facing Just Jenda in the Oaks will be Gainesway Stable and Ron Winchell’s Hightap, winner of both the Dogwood (gr. III) at Churchill and Iowa Oaks (gr. III) at Prairie Meadows this season. A daughter of Tapit trained by Steve Asmussen, Hightap was sixth in the 10-furlong Coaching Club American Oaks most recently at Belmont in her first grade I try.
A winner of four of seven lifetime starts, Hightap will start inside of Just Jenda in post 2. She will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan.
Just Jenda and Hightap will both carry top weight of 122 pounds.
Also in the field is Sweet Relish, runner-up by only a half-length to Hightap in the Iowa Oaks, and Delaware Oaks (gr. II) runner-up, Malibu Prayer, who is trained by Todd Pletcher.
$200,000 Monmouth Oaks (gr. III, Race 9, 4:50 p.m.), 3YO Fillies, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Stage Trick (KY), C H Marquez Jr., 118, A E Goldberg
2. Hightap (KY), S Bridgmohan, 122, S M Asmussen
3. Just Jenda (KY), G Saez, 122, J L Jones
4. Bandora (KY), E Trujillo, 118, R W Werner
5. Renda (KY), S O Madrid, 118, J D Arias
6. Oro Blanco (KY), P Lopez, 118, T J Tullock, Jr.
7. Sweet Relish (KY), M C Berry, 120, D K Von Hemel
8. Missunitednations (FL), E Castro, 118, R E Reid, Jr.
9. Malibu Prayer (VA), C P DeCarlo, 118, T A Pletcher
10. Sea Wind (KY), J C Caraballo, 118, W J Entenmann