Larry Jones is back and racing is the better for it. The 56-year-old
trainer, who retired at
the top of his game on Nov. 7, 2009 and returned in early 2011 with the
same fervor as the day he left. Anyone talking with the personable
Kentuckian could recognize that in a heartbeat.
Jones, who has been training since 1982 save for his recent
respite, is headquartered in Kentucky and is making his first visit to
Santa Anita, thanks to Joyful Victory, a stakes-winning filly who drew
post position four in a field of nine in Saturday’s Grade I, “Win and
You’re In” Zenyatta Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
“She shipped in really good,” Jones said of the 4-year-old gray
daughter of Tapit, owned by the Fox Hill Farms of Rick Porter. “She was
training well. We didn’t have to come to California just for the fun of
it, but she was training so well, we felt now was the time to give her
“I’ve never been to Santa Anita, so this is the first time, and
I’ve always heard maybe the track was like this (pointing to a freshly
watered-down patch of hard dirt outside his shed row), but it’s not.
They’ve got a lot of cushion on it and the horse really galloped well
(three-quarters of a mile) over it today. It’s a track that we’re kind
of used to, so I thought it was a lovely track.
“She just got off the plane the night before last. We had all the preps done so all we have to do is keep her loose and happy.”
Joyful Victory has raced at seven different tracks in her
12-race career, with a 4-3-2 record and earnings of $575,068, so she
doesn’t have to carry her track around with her, as the saying goes.
“She’s done pretty well on all of them,” Jones said. “She’s a
very good-moving filly, but I’ll be honest with you. I think she’s going
to be OK on this track. She acts like she got over it very well this
Rosie Napravnik rides Joyful Victory for the first time in the
Zenyatta. Jones has every confidence in the 24-year-old rider from
Morristown, N.J., the daughter of a blacksmith and a show horse trainer.
In 2006, she was runner-up to Julien Leparoux for the Eclipse Award as
“We’re real proud of her,” Jones said. “She won the (Kentucky)
Oaks for me this year (on Believe You Can). I put her in some big-name
races already and she shows up every time. I started riding her maybe in
2006 and she just performed every time.
“I think she’s one of the most talented riders—boy, girl or
whatever—in the country. We’re very proud to have her on this filly.
She’s never gotten to ride her. She’s ridden with her and she’s worked
against her in the morning. We’ve always had her on Believe You Can and
sometimes we’ll work them together. She’s seen this filly, so she knows
As for his brief personal break, Jones took time to smell the
roses. “We were very blessed,” said Jones, a former commercial farmer
whose signature 10-gallon hat makes him readily recognizable. “Rick
Porter said he would give me some top-notch horses if I would come back
and train, and my wife (Cindy) took over for a year and let me catch my
breath and take care of some health issues.
“Anyway, we are back, we’re on a lot smaller scale (44 in
training) which is really good, and we still have a lot of quality.
Between Rick and Barry Jones and my wife, they made it to where I could
come back and be at the top still.”
The field for the Zenyatta, formerly the Lady’s Secret, which
goes as race eight of 11: Amani, Rafael Bejarano, 3-1; Love Theway
Youare, David Flores, 12-1; Switch, Garrett Gomez, 7-2; Joyful Victory,
Rosie Napravnik, 12-1; Star Billing, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Include Me
Out, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Love and Pride, Martin Garcia, 4-1; Via Villagio,
Martin Pedroza, 20-1; and Miss Mittagong, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1.