It's shipping time for horsemen across the country as attention shifts from winter racing grounds to the spring meet at Keeneland, and the stable of trainer Larry Jones is no exception.
The Kentucky hardboot was settling runners in at Barn 18 March 31 at the Lexington track, with an April 2 invasion of Turfway Park planned before Keeneland racing kicks off April 8. Later in the meet, grade I winner I'm a Chatterbox will make an appearance in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare (gr. III).
"I've just got horses," Jones jokingly said when asked what talent he will bring in hopes of taking home some Keeneland stakes money. "First we're focusing on a one-day invasion of Turfway just to see what happens."
Jones has his own homebred Jensen, a Haynesfield colt out of the Hard Spun mare Spun Lake, in the Horseshoe Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes (gr. III). The chestnut runner romped last time out in a Feb. 25 allowance race going a mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, winning wire-to-wire by 6 3/4 lengths under jockey Florent Geroux, who has the return call. The two drew post 3 in an overdrawn field of 12, with two also-eligibles.
"He's out of my Hard Spun mare, and Hard Spun liked it up there, so we'll give it a try," Jones said. He conditioned Hard Spun to win the Spiral in 2007, when it was known as the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II).
The son of Danzig went on to a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), a third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and a fourth in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) before running second in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) and winning the King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I). After that Hard Spun returned to Turfway, where he won the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) before finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I) to close out his career.
Jones also has former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones' He'll Pay in the Rushaway Stakes, and his own maiden Jazz Man in a one-mile race on the undercard.
When attention turns to Keeneland, Jones will first send Fox Hill Farms' Thirteen Arrows after a big target in the April 9 Madison Stakes (gr. I). The 5-year-old Indian Charlie mare, who won the Pan Zareta Stakes and Zia Park Distaff last year, started her season with a runner-up finish in the Feb. 20 Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn Park and jumps up to grade I company for the first time in her career.
In contrast, Jones hopes to find an easy debut spot in the 1 1/16-mile Doubledogdare for Fletcher and Carolyn Gray's I'm a Chatterbox, who was rested this winter at Fair Grounds following an eighth in the Oct. 30 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).
"Basically all we've done with her this winter is try to give her a little bit of a break, as long as she would let us," Jones said. "She decided training needed to pick up the pace a little bit down there. Knowing she didn't need two super-long years back-to-back, I was trying to keep her quiet, but she's revving herself up so we're fixing to run her here."
The 4-year-old Munnings filly put in a steady list of works at Fair Grounds.
"She runs pretty good fresh," Jones said. "I had her off the layup for the Silverbulletday down at Fair Grounds, and she won that by eight lengths. The other time I tried to give her a little break was after the Kentucky Oaks (in which she was third), leading into the Coaching Club American Oaks, and she was first to the wire there even though she got DQ'ed."
I'm a Chatterbox, an Eclipse Award finalist for champion 3-year-old filly who last year won or placed in seven of her eight stakes starts, seven of them graded, will target the June 11 Ogden Phipps Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
As for Jones' other contenders lining up for the Keeneland meet, the trainer chuckled.
"Everybody else is trying to make a name for themselves," he said. "Hopefully they all start wanting to be somebody."