02/04/2009 12:00AM

Court enjoys his TV show experience


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Jon Court's mug will be everywhere on Friday. He will spend the afternoon riding at Oaklawn, then later that night will be seen on Animal Planet in the new reality series "Jockeys," which debuts at 9 p.m. Eastern. The series was shot in Southern California, where Court had been based the last five years. This past month, however, he and his family decided to return to the Midwest, and in the spring Court will be based in Kentucky.

Court has been traveling back and forth from Oaklawn to California for stakes mounts and to close out his affairs. After three weeks of the Oaklawn meet, he is 1 for 28 with 11 second- or third-place finishes. Among his best local mounts is Initforthekandy, an allowance winner who is being pointed for the Grade 1 Apple Blossom.

Court is looking forward to the "Jockeys" series, noting that the producers' idea of giving the whole picture of a rider's life made the project appealing to him. He said filming began last October. The normally even-keeled Court looks for the show to at times reveal a surprising side of his personality.

"I was a little quiet, there wasn't much eventfulness to my character, and I had a few producers come to me and say I had to step it up a little more," he said. "They wanted everything.

"I said, 'You want color? I'll give you color. I've been around the racetrack too long. I'm 48 years old and I've learned to tame my tongue, but here we go.' That's part of the show; we do embarrass each other. We take turns having fun with it. I had a blast."

Court hopes the series will lure more fans for racing. He also hopes it gives those not familiar with the sport insight into the emotional and physical challenges jockeys face as professional athletes.

"I want people to realize that we're not just animated characters," he said. "We let things roll off our backs, but we also have lives that are very involved with family and just everyday circumstances.

"There's a lot of stress involved, and they're going to see, for the first time, the behind-the-scenes things they may have been aware of, or they may never have been aware of."

Court, a past title winner at Oaklawn, will ride Hold'em Tiger in Friday's featured eighth race, a second-level optional $40,000 claiming sprint. A first-level allowance winner at Churchill, the horse is trained by Court's father-in-law, Jinks Fires.

Large fields for Premier Night

The $1 million Louisiana Premier Night program of statebred stakes at Delta Downs on Saturday night drew large fields, with 10 set to start in the featured $200,000 Championship. The 1 1/16-mile race is one of six stakes on the 11-race card. There are also four starter stakes.

Star Guitar will be going for his fourth consecutive win in the Championship when he breaks from post 5. Robby Albarado has the mount for trainer Al Stall Jr.

Leestown Legacy, Pantara Phantom, Willist, Lee's Spirit, Grand Minit, Southern Invasion, Star Production, G.W.'s Silver, and Snug are also entered.

Superior Storm, a winner of seven of her last nine starts, heads the $150,000 Distaff. The one-mile race drew seven fillies and mares, which is the smallest field on the card. John Jacinto has the mount on Superior Storm, who drew post 7. She is trained by Rick Jackson.

Grisham earns Walk of Fame honors

Don Grisham, an Oaklawn media relations staff member who previously spent 34 years working for Daily Racing Form, will be inducted into the Arkansas Walk of Fame in Hot Springs on April 6. Grisham, 78, worked as a columnist, correspondent, and trackman for Daily Racing Form.

"I'm not only very happy, but also very grateful about the induction," he said. "I've been to several of them. I was there with the Cellas and I was there with Pat Day and Earlie Fires. I was counting all the guys that were recognized, never dreaming that one day I'd be there."

There are close to 70 members of the Walk of Fame, which includes representatives from all industries. Trainer Bob Holthus is also a member of the Walk.

* Tweeter, a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Birdstone and Bird Town, will make her career debut in the seventh race Friday. The six-furlong maiden special weight is for 3-year-old fillies. Tweeter, who is out of the Storm Bird mare Dear Birdie, is by Unbridled's Song. She is trained by D. Wayne Lukas and was bred by her owner, Marylou Whitney.