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Weekend Racing at Santa Anita : Trainer Gives Jeanne Jones a Plugged Chance

March 12, 1988|BILL CHRISTINE | Times Staff Writer

A few years ago, when Laz Barrera had trouble with a horse who seemed to fear getting hit in the face with dirt, the trainer ordered a pair of goggles.

The horse was Tights, a son of Nijinsky II, and he became a stakes winner.

When trainer Jack Van Berg couldn't get Gate Dancer to run straight, he fitted him with a colorful pair of earmuffs, to muffle the crowd noise. Gate Dancer still ran erratically, but who knows? If it hadn't been for the earmuffs, maybe he would have earned 25 cents instead of $2.5 million.

Jeanne Jones, a 3-year-old Nijinsky filly trained by Charlie Whittingham, is another horse who seems sensitive to her surroundings.

Although she had made only two starts, Whittingham thought Jeanne Jones was good enough to run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Hollywood Park last November. For most of the mile race, Jeanne Jones was not only good enough to run, but also good enough to lead. She opened up a six-length margin at the top of the stretch and looked unbeatable.

But with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go, Jeanne Jones got spooked by something and swerved. That was enough to throw her off, and enough for Epitome, who had come from next to last, to beat Whittingham's filly by a nose at the wire.

Besides winning the race, Epitome also got the Eclipse Award, winning a close vote in a division that had no clear-cut standout.

Whittingham thought that a long row of photographers, parked under the inside rail, might have been responsible for Jeanne Jones' antics.

But in two subsequent starts, with Jeanne Jones going off as the 1-2 favorite both times, she had similar problems. The first race was the Hollywood Starlet, which resulted in a third-place finish, and the next was a second place in an allowance race on a Thursday afternoon when there were no photographers around.

Borrowing a page from Barrera and Van Berg--and using something that he himself had tried before--Whittingham stuffed cotton in Jeanne Jones' ears for her last start, the Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita March 2.

She still didn't run straight through the stretch, but it was an improved route and good enough for a 1-length win, Jeanne Jones' first since she had broken her maiden by nine lengths in the first start of her life on the same track 18 weeks before.

Off that win, Whittingham is running Jeanne Jones against Breeders' Cup-caliber fillies Sunday in the $150,000 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles, the same distance as the Santa Ysabel.

To win, Jeanne Jones has to beat only three other 3-year-olds, but two of them--Goodbye Halo and Winning Colors--are the best locally and probably the finest in the country. Whittingham also saddles Goodbye Halo, who's on a four-race winning streak, and he has yet a third starter in Pattern Step, who finished second to Jeanne Jones in the Santa Ysabel.

Rounding out the field is Winning Colors, who was undefeated until she lost by a neck to Goodbye Halo in the Las Virgenes Stakes at a mile Feb. 20. Goodbye Halo carried four more pounds than Winning Colors that day. All four starters will carry 117 pounds Sunday.

Winning Colors drew the inside post position, with Gary Stevens continuing to ride her. Next, in order, are Jeanne Jones with Bill Shoemaker, Pattern Step with Chris McCarron and Goodbye Halo with Jorge Velasquez.

Horse Racing Notes

As expected, the Santa Anita stewards suspended jockey Pat Valenzuela indefinitely Friday, because he didn't show up to ride and didn't appear before them to give an explanation. . . . Trainer Bill Spawr has won 10 races at the meeting with only 22 starters.

Laz Barrera will probably change jockeys when Mi Preferido runs a week from Sunday in the San Felipe Handicap, with Gary Stevens a candidate to replace Alex Solis. . . . Barrera's Sly Charmer, second in the Buena Vista Handicap last week, broke a leg and will have two screws installed to fuse the fracture.

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