As one of the finest trainers going, Larry Jones
knows good horseflesh when he sees it, so when he says he’s very happy with a young horse this time of year, it makes sense to listen. Clearly Havre de Grace
, likely to be rewarded with the Horse of the Year in a matter of days, is the stable star, but Jones, along with wife and assistant trainer Cindy, are hoping for big things from their newly turned three-year-old, Mr. Bowling
At first glance, Mr. Bowling might not look like he should be on the short list of potential Kentucky Derby contenders
, but that could quickly change with next week’s running of the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds
. As the first Derby prep race in New Orleans and a prelude to the $1 million Louisiana Derby
, the Lecomte is a race that should thrust a new name into the Derby mix, and Mr. Bowling may fit the bill.
A winner of two of four starts as a juvenile, Mr. Bowling began his career at Delaware Park
, where many a Jones future star was born. He came up short in his debut, although he showed speed before fading to a fourth place finish. Next was another maiden sprint three weeks later, and the dark bay colt flashed major promise with a 2 ¾ length win in which he came from the 12-hole to dominate the field. Off that stylish maiden win in his second start, he returned seven weeks later for the $75,000 Dover Stakes. In his first stakes try and his first attempt around two-turns, Mr. Bowling made short work of the five-horse field, winning off by an impressive 7 ¼ lengths in solid time for the 1 mile and 70 yards.
Leaving Delaware Park for the first time, Mr. Bowling tried some tougher competition in Churchill Downs’s Iroquois Stakes
the day before Halloween. Weaving in and out throughout the stretch, Mr. Bowling finished third despite his erratic run, in the race won by Motor City. After the race, I remember thinking he would be a horse to keep an eye on. He hasn’t run since, but the news coming from New Orleans looks good.
Mr. Bowling has posted a steady series of five furlong works in New Orleans, with two bullets and a sharp :58.80 on Monday.
“He has been training very well since he got here,” said Larry Jones. “We’re very happy with him. Obviously, Mr. Bowling likes this track a lot, but we also want to think he’s just getting better. He seems to be maturing more and more every day. He’s a son of the young Gone West sire Istan whose horses are just getting to the races. I have several Istans in my barn, and they all look like they can run.”
Mr. Bowling is a homebred son of first-crop sire Istan
, and as Jones mentioned, the young Airdrie Stud stallion is a son of the very influential Mr. Prospector sire, Gone West
. Standing for only $3,500, Istan may prove to be a big bargain in his early years at Stud. As a runner, he was brought back to America from France by owner Brereton Jones
, who is also the owner and breeder of Mr. Bowling. A three-time winner in France, Istan became a force in American racing after overcoming some physical setbacks. In 2007, at the age of five, Istan won five stakes, at five different tracks, and on two different surfaces. Included in those victories was an overpowering performance in the Grade 2 Ack Ack Handicap
in which he completed the flat mile in 1:34 flat defeating the excellent racehorse, Sun King by nearly nine lengths, and earning a 111 Beyer. In what may prove to be an important fact in the future, the Ack Ack is run under the twin spires of Churchill Downs
A strong performance next Saturday, in the Lecomte
, could be the start of something big that sends Mr. Bowling on the road back to the site of his sire’s greatest performance. If it does, it will be a road paved by Larry Jones, a horseman that I fully expect to end up in the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle sooner or later.