01/27/2005 12:00AM

From father to son, father to son


ARCADIA, Calif. - Since the Sunshine Millions is all about gloryifying the Thoroughbred product of Florida and California, it would be only right for a certain third-generation West Coast trainer to take home a serious piece of the action on Saturday afternoon.

Marty Jones - the 34-year-old son of Gary and grandson of Farrell - is the latest in a line that has been a part of the California racing scene since the glory days of Seabiscuit more than 65 years ago.

As an exercise rider for the Tom Smith outfit, Farrell Jones had a ringside seat for history in the making, then went on to become champion trainer at 28 major Southern California meets, including eight at Santa Anita and 11 at Del Mar, most of them with his son at his side.

Gary Jones stepped in when Farrell's heart trouble forced an early retirement in the mid-1970's. Gary added another 13 training titles to the family album while training a whole pile of top stakes winners, including champion Turkoman and near champions Kostroma, Lakeway, and Best Pal.

Any resemblance between Marty Jones and his famous forebears is purely in his choice stable colors, blue and red. Farrell was known as "Wild Horse" for reasons that were readily apparent. Gary Jones, gregarious to a fault, battled the demons of substance abuse, changed for the better, but still treated blood pressure as if the highest number wins. When Gary announced his retirement in 1996, at age 52, people were momentarily stunned, but not surprised.

Marty Jones, on the other hand, makes Dean Martin look jumpy. Lanky, laid-back, and admittedly shy, he so far has made a lot less noise than his father or grandfather - both literally and figuratively - but he shares with them a consummate horsemanship that is finally beginning to pay off.

On Saturday, at both Santa Anita and Gulfstream, the Jones stable will be represented by El Don in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic, Alphabet Kisses in the $500,000 Distaff, and Bilo in the $300,000 Sprint. None of them will be favored, but Jones contends they won't be embarrassed, either.

"The Sunshine Millions has come along at a good time for us," Jones said from his Hollywood Park headquarters Thursday morning. "They're all nice horses, and they've prepared well. They sure make coming to work a lot more fun."

On Dec. 27 at Santa Anita, Jones was in the right race at the right time with Alphabet Kisses, a daughter of 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup owned by California Horse Racing Board chairman John Harris. Her victory that day in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes projects well onto the 1 1/16-mile Distaff, even though the opposition includes major stakes winners House of Fortune, Yearly Report, and Dream of Summer.

"The rains hit the night of that race," Jones said, referring to the series of storms that battered both racing and training schedules. "She was going to walk for a few days anyway - she's really a light filly - so by the time the rains let up, she was ready to go back to serious training."

Bilo, a son of Bertrando owned by Eddie Nahem, drew the outside post in the 13-horse Sprint against the likes of Shake You Down, My Cousin Matt, Areyoutalkintome, and Full Moon Madness. After six starts, Bilo is two noses and a head away from having a perfect record.

"He'll get his acid test here," Jones said. "But he's a very nice horse, and he's so game. Normally, I don't mind drawing outside in a sprint. In his case, though, I would sure like to see him save a little ground, because he doesn't mind mixing it up inside horses, getting dirt in his face."

While his assistants handle things at Santa Anita, Jones will be at Gulfstream Park to do the saddling honors for El Don, a son of Cee's Tizzy owned by Harris and Don Valpredo. El Don has his work cut out to deal with Midas Eyes, Second of June, Limehouse, and Supah Blitz, but at least his longshot status will be a bit more subdued than the last time Jones took a flyer in Florida.

That would be at the 1999 Breeders' Cup, when Jones ran a colt named Hugh Hefner in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The real Hef was along for the ride, complete with matching centerfold cufflinks (the Twins!) and accompanied at every turn by a fleet of television cameras. Not bad for a horse who was 50-1.

"I really don't think they'll show up for El Don," Jones said. "But you can always hope."

Apologies to Baze

Hall of Famer Russell Baze will be making a rare Florida appearance on Saturday to ride in three of the four Sunshine Millions events there, including El Don in the Classic. If there is any justice at all, he will romp in all three and this reporter will get shut out trying to bet an all-Baze triple.

In a column earlier this week, the number of whip violations levied upon Baze during an 11-year period earlier in his career was inadvertently but wildly exaggerated - 200 instead of the correct 13 - leaving an impression that was not only far from accurate, but hurtful to Baze's reputation. My editor suggested I could claim a senior moment, but let's save that for later. This was a bad error, caused by sloppy work, for which I am truly sorry. Somebody deserves a good whuppin'.