01/18/2012 4:21PM

Fair Grounds: Jones has big shots in two 3-year-old stakes

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Trainer Larry Jones will send out Mr. Bowling, a winner in his two-turn debut in the Dover at Delaware Park, in Saturday's Lecomte.

NEW ORLEANS – It’s not like Larry Jones didn’t appreciate going to Beverly Hills and coming back to New Orleans on Tuesday with a Horse of the Year trophy for his stable star, Havre de Grace. But the Jones vibe just does not jibe with Southern California, and a betting man would lay money on Jones trading a black-tie affair for a morning at the track.

Which is where Jones was Wednesday, returned to his normal routine at Fair Grounds following a brief excursion to Monday’s Eclipse Awards ceremony.

“I don’t know that Horse of the Year has totally sunk in yet,” Jones said after training hours Wednesday. “Things happen so fast you don’t really know they’re happening. I missed three days of galloping, though. I had to get back to the barn.”

While Havre de Grace gallops along here toward her 2012 debut, the Jones barn swings into stakes action this weekend, with potentially major players entered in both the Grade 3, $175,000 Lecomte and the $125,000 Silverbulletday, two of six stakes on Saturday’s so-called Road to the Derby Kickoff Day. Jones entered Mr. Bowling in the Lecomte, the first significant local step toward the $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, and Believe You Can in the Silverbulletday for 3-year-old fillies.

Mr. Bowling, with Robby Albarado named to ride for the first time, breaks from post 3 for the mile-and-70-yard Lecomte. The race drew a whopping 13 entrants, but has two coupled entries; Adena’s Chance and Hero of Order race as one betting interest, as do owner Ahmed Zayat’s pair of Z Dager and Dan and Sheila. Z Dager has been pointed to the Lecomte for several weeks, but the entry of Dan and Sheila, who ships from Florida for trainer Todd Pletcher, came as a surprise. Pletcher until recent days had been aiming Remsen Stakes third-place finisher El Padrino for the Lecomte, but said El Padrino would instead run in a Gulfstream Park allowance race.

“The allowance race isn’t until Jan. 29, and this horse was acting like he was screaming to run, while El Padrino looked like he could use another work,” Pletcher said. “We called an audible.”

Dan and Sheila, a More than Ready colt, won his only start, a one-turn mile Dec. 17 at Gulfstream.

Exfactor, winner of the Bashford Manor and Sugar Bowl stakes in his last two starts, was entered in the Lecomte but is an uncertain starter after sustaining a minor hind leg injury as a result of kicking his stall, trainer Bernie Flint said Wednesday morning.

Also in the Lecomte are Ted’s Folly, whose most recent win in a six-race streak of victories came in the rich Springboard Mile at Remington Park, and Shared Property, the Arlington-Washington Futurity winner who makes his first start since October. Seven Lively Sins was second in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall, while Capetown Devil has won all three of his races, including a recent first-level route allowance here. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Chalybeate Springs won an Oaklawn maiden race on Jan. 14 and was supplemented into the Lecomte for $4,000.

Jones said Mr. Bowling would have contested the Springboard Mile had he not gotten sick after shipping into Fair Grounds in November. Mr. Bowling won the Dover Stakes at Delaware on Oct. 8 by more than seven lengths, but three weekends later could only finish third as the 7-5 favorite in the Iroquois at Churchill, a one-turn mile that Jones feels might have been too short for his horse. Mr. Bowling has turned in sharp recent Fair Grounds works, including a Jan. 9 five-furlong drill in which he caught Believe You Can at the finish after trailing the filly by several lengths a furlong out.

Believe You Can, who was sixth in the Pocahontas at Churchill after winning the Grade 3 Tempted at Belmont, was one of six fillies entered in the Silverbulletday. The undefeated Applauding heads a Silverbulletday field that also includes impressive recent Fair Grounds allowance-race winner Summer Applause.

Saturday’s other graded stakes, the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley, took a hit when Florida-based Blues Street, who would have been favored, was not entered by trainer Eddie Kenneally. The $100,000 Bradley includes Mr. Vegas and Suntracer, both of whom have won well on turf during this meet.

Just five sprinters, including Fair Grounds-loving Cash Refund, were entered in the $75,000 Gaudin, but the Louisiana Handicap and the Pan Zareta stakes did better. The $100,000 Louisiana, for older dirt route horses, attracted a field of nine, headed by Alma d’Oro and Fast Alex, while the Pan Zareta, a turf-sprint for older females, drew 13 entries.