11/08/2005 1:00AM

After tornado, a bright note for Jones


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Under normal circumstances, Larry Jones would be very happy if Beat the Band won the feature race Thursday at Churchill Downs.

But after what happened early Sunday at Ellis Park, Jones is merely happy that Beat the Band will get to run at all.

With 41 horses on the backstretch, Jones had by far the largest contingent at Ellis when a deadly tornado rolled through the Henderson, Ky., track. Three horses died at Ellis; dozens more were injured, including some trained by Jones. But in the grand scheme of things, the Jones stable was largely unaffected, much to Jones's relief.

Jones, who in recent years attracted national attention as the trainer of Grade 1 winner Island Sand, said he has fielded dozens of calls from friends and well-wishers in the aftermath of the tornado. With Ellis closed for training, and with his horses needing a place to train, a call came from Oaklawn Park, which granted Jones a special exemption to bring his horses early to the Hot Springs, Ark., track. Oaklawn does not open for training until Nov. 20.

"I'm sending about 35 down there," said Jones. "The track won't be open, but that's okay. We'll kind of lay up, jog in shed rows. The horses we've got, they're very fit right now, so missing a couple weeks shouldn't hurt us in the long run. I'm just thankful they obliged us under these circumstances."

The exodus from Kentucky means Beat the Band, who is part of a full field in the ninth of 10 Thursday races at Churchill, will be the last horse Jones will start in Kentucky for a while.

"She ran a couple of nice races at Keeneland, and she's doing well," said Jones. "My only hope is she isn't too fresh for this. She's one to get a little rank early if you're not careful, but hopefully she'll level off and run her race Thursday."

, with David Flores named to ride, is one of 10 fillies in the feature, which has been carded with five also-eligibles. The one-mile turf race carries a $54,900 purse.

Other notable contenders in a well-matched feature include .

One other allowance (race 3) is on the Thursday card. Capac, with Rafael Bejarano riding for Nick Zito, looks like the horse to beat in that $60,400 race at one mile on the main track.