02/28/2012 4:53PM

Fair Grounds: Mark Valeski not at his peak, Jones says

Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts
El Padrino (left) outduels Mark Valeski to win the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

Mark Valeski nearly aced his stakes and two-turn debut Saturday in the Risen Star, losing by a nose to El Padrino, but to trainer Larry Jones, that performance could wind up being a mere point of departure.

“I really do think he can improve,” Jones said Tuesday. “I do know when he was ready to go over to race Saturday, I looked at him and I thought, ‘Boy you’re still fat!’ In my opinion this race will tighten him up. I don’t think he’s peaked by any means.”

Jones said that despite the fact Mark Valeski ran hard through the entire stretch Saturday, the Proud Citizen colt had come out of the Risen Star in good shape.

“It does not appear to have knocked him out at all,” said Jones, who was to send Mark Valeski back to the track Wednesday.

Mark Valeski debuted July 12 at Delaware, finishing fourth in a maiden sprint won by Union Rags. He didn’t race again until Sept. 27, winning a Delaware maiden race, and was idle again until Jan. 13, when he won a first-level allowance sprint at Fair Grounds. Jones said the gaps between starts weren’t planned. Mark Valeski had sore shins after his debut, a minor problem that cropped up again just before Mark Valeski was to start in a Churchill Downs allowance in November.

Jones said he wouldn’t give Mark Valeski as much work between the Risen Star and the April 1 Louisiana Derby as he did leading into Saturday’s race.

“We kind of stepped up his training just from the standpoint of knowing he was a little bit heavy,” Jones said. “Hopefully, this time we can train him more the way we normally train our horses.”

Mr. Bowling, the Lecomte Stakes winner who finished last of 11 in the Risen Star, won’t contest the Louisiana Derby.

“I don’t see a reason to run him against Mark Valeski again,” Jones said. “We can find another spot.”

Jones also said that Believe You Can, fourth as the beaten favorite in the Rachel Alexandra, will be pointed to the Fair Grounds Oaks next month. Though he declined to elaborate, Jones said he has a concrete explanation for the reason Believe You Can regressed after her sharp win in the Silverbulletday Stakes.

And finally, Havre de Grace took another step Monday toward her 2012 debut, breezing five furlongs in a bullet 59 seconds. Havre de Grace remains on course to start March 17 in the New Orleans Ladies, and Jones said it was possible she’d work in company next week with Joyful Victory, the mare likely headed to the Azeri Stakes the same day at Oaklawn.