01/17/2015 6:26PM

Hard Aces makes up for favored stablemate's failure in Louisiana Stakes

Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir
Hard Aces, a 9-1 shot under Jose Riquelme, scores by four lengths in the Louisiana Stakes.

NEW ORLEANS – Trainer Larry Jones lost the $75,000 Louisiana Stakes. And he won it.

Albano, the heavy favorite making the first start of his 4-year-old season, checked in a one-paced third, but the Jones-trained 9-1 shot Hard Aces took care of business. With a big sweeping move off the turn under Jose Riquelme, Hard Aces powered to the lead and just kept going. Up by two lengths at the stretch call, he won by four over Fordubai, with Albano, the 3-5 favorite, another 2 1/2 lengths back in third.

Hard Aces, a 5-year-old by Hard Spun – whom Jones also trained -- bred and owned by Dreamchaser Thoroughbreds, won the first stakes of his career after finishing second Dec. 21 here in the Tenacious.

“Last time he ran the best race of his career, but this was better,” said Jones. “I think it was just a question of maturity. We kept our fingers crossed with him.”  

Hard Aces won just one of his first 10 races, but he has since developed fairly steadily, and he had help from the race shape Saturday. Nates Mineshaft was sent to the lead to outrun speedy Grand Contender and laid down splits of 23.47 and 47.17 seconds, the latter a demanding tempo. Nates Mineshaft held his advantage only to the top of the stretch, where he was overwhelmed by Hard Aces. The winner ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.61 and paid $20.60.

Albano, the Haskell Invitational runner-up who hadn’t started since finishing third Sept. 1 in the Smarty Jones Stakes, “ran like he needed a race,” said jockey Kerwin Clark.

“It’s not easy getting a horse ready to go a mile and a sixteenth off a layoff,” said Jones. “Albano will be all right.”