02/21/2012 3:58PM

Fair Grounds: Jones’s trio of 3-year-olds gear up for stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Believe You Can is one of the likely favorites for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds.

The atmosphere around the Larry Jones barn on Tuesday morning at Fair Grounds was decidedly more calm than the morning previous, and that was not just because everyone had wandered off to watch Zulu and Rex, the major Mardi Gras Day parades, roll down into the French Quarter. Monday was a major work day in the Jones barn, with all three of his 3-year-olds intended for Saturday stakes races in action, making Tuesday a quieter walk day for many of the horses.

Both of Jones’s starters for the Grade 2, $300,000 Risen Star Stakes, Mr. Bowling and Mark Valeski, turned in five-furlong, in-company workouts. The filly Believe You Can, who might well be favored Saturday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra, underwent what was intended as a solo five-furlong drill.

“They’re all bouncing this morning, and everyone was eating well,” Jones said Tuesday. “We were very happy with the way everything worked.”

Jones said he sent Believe You Can, a sharp winner of the Jan. 21 Silverbulletday Stakes, out without a workmate because Believe You Can exerts herself in morning work without the aid of competition. For Mr. Bowling and Mark Valeski, a companion can help them get the needed blow.

“The filly, she puts a lot into it anyway,” Jones said. “We don’t have to worry about her not doing enough. The boys, the company makes them a little sharper.”

It turned out that Believe You Can and jockey Rosie Napravnik got some company after all while working five furlongs in 1:00.60. A horse trained by Mike Stidham broke off in front of them, and the two horses went around to the wire together.

“That ended up working out fine,” Jones said.

Mr. Bowling had race rider Robby Albarado up for his five furlongs in a sharp 59.40 seconds. Napravnik is to ride Mark Valeski for the first time Saturday, and she worked the Proud Citizen colt for the second time Monday, with Mark Valeski going his five-eighths in 1:00.40.

Jones acknowledged that Mark Valeski, who makes his two-turn debut, and Mr. Bowling, the Lecomte winner, figure to employ similar stalking or pressing running styles Saturday.

“They sit just right off the pace normally, and we’ll be looking for a similar scenario,” Jones said. “The jockeys have to figure out their best trip. We’re going to go in with basically no game plan.”