Jonesboro took the overland route to a half-length victory in the $300,000 Texas Mile (gr. III) (VIDEO) and cleared the $1 million mark in career earnings at Lone Star Park April 25.
The multiple graded stakes winner was wide every step of the way under Lone Star's all-time leading jockey Cliff Berry and had to overcome a bump on the final turn. But he launched a winning bid at the top of the lane, catching King Dan in deep stretch to register a half-length triumph while clocking a time of 1:36.94 on a fast track.
“Randy told me to try to get him out good and that it was up to me from there,” said Berry. “Those other horses pushed him out a little bit going into the first turn, but he’s a tough old horse and he just kept trying. He ran great. He dug in the whole way.”
King Dan, ridden by Eguard Tejera, was a clear second by 2 1/4 lengths over Encausticand Eddie Martin Jr. Halo Najib, the 7-5 favorite in the field of seven, showed the way while setting swift early fractions under Jose Lezcano, but gave way to King Dan in upper stretch and settled for fourth.
Jonesboro, a 7-year-old son of Sefapiano trained by Randy Morse for owner Michael Langford, earned his 13th career win in 38 starts. The winning share of $180,000 boosted his bankroll to $1,123,575. Jonesboro is named for Langford's home town in Arkansas.
"He’s earned it the hard way," Morse said. "This is actually the biggest race he’s ever won and for him to reach this milestone here in Texas, it’s special. I’m from Texas."
“It’s been special,” added Langford. “Randy has done a great job with him. We thought from day one he was a good horse and we’ve been trying for this. We wanted it to happen and it happened here.”
The winner raced in mid-pack after being pushed four or five paths wide on the first turn as Halo Najib, shipping from Southern California in search of his first graded stakes win, clicked off fractions of :23.28, :45.83, and 1:10.17. Berry urged Jonesboro along into the final turn while still four wide, where they brushed with Por Que.
King Dan, who was also carried wide into the first turn, got the first crack at Halo Najib and inched away to a one-length lead with a furlong to run. He battled gamely to the wire in spite of drifting out but eventually succumbed to Jonesboro, who charged from the far outside under moderate handling.
Jonesboro, who earned the most lucrative victory of his career, was coming off a third-place finish in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) April 4. In addition to his 13 victories, he has finished second eight times and third on four other occasions.
Bred in Kentucky by Jayeff B Stables, the chestnut horse is out of Mom's Command, by Top Command.
Sent off as the second choice, Jonesboro carried co-high weight of 118 pounds and paid $6.40, $3.40, and $2.60. King Dan turned in a big effort in his stakes debut for trainer Dallas Keen and returned $6.80 and $5.20. The $2 exacta was worth $35.80. Encaustic was $5.20 to show.
Halo Najib finished a half-length farther back. Por que, King Darius and Catmantoo completed the order. Smooth Air, the likely favorite and 123-pound top weight, was scratched by trainer Bennie Stutts Jr., after reportedly suffering a bout of colic.